(TPS) A Hotel Association report released on Monday has found that Israel’s tourism industry has not recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic and warned of a “Black February.”
The report’s examination of national tourism figures found that the number of hotel bookings in January 2023 was 27 percent lower than in January 2019.
The association’s report attributed this to fewer tourists coming to Israel. Citing the Tourism Ministry, the report said that 257,000 tourists entered Israel in 2023 in contrast to the 284,000 who arrived in January 2019, a 10% decline. The report explained that there is normally a gap between arriving tourists and hotel bookings because many visitors prefer to rent apartments such as through Airbnb, arrange accommodations in neighboring countries or stay with relatives.
While pre-COVID 2019 was a record year for Israeli tourism with 4.55 million visitors, 2022 saw the arrival of 2.675 million tourists, a 41% drop.
The report attributed the sharp fall to several factors, including diminished tourism from Russia since the invasion of Ukraine, a declining number of groups making religious pilgrimages, and higher prices in Israel.
It also noted that tourism is bouncing back faster in Tel Aviv than in periphery areas. Comparing the January 2019 and 2023 hotel bookings, Tel Aviv was only down nine percent. But the report specified that many of the city’s bookings were due to businessmen and not tourists. Bookings were down by 50% in Nazareth, 40% at the Dead Sea, 39% in Netanya and 33% at hotels around the Sea of Galilee.
The Hotel Association stated, “The difficult data of January 2023 may also paint February black, against the background of the uncertainty created by the government’s approval of the decree imposing the [Value Added Tax] on tourists. This means that the packages for tourists will become more expensive by 17% in a country that is already considered the most expensive among the countries.”
The association added, “This is another blow to an industry that has not yet recovered from the corona and may be an irreversible blow to tourism, to tens of thousands employed in the industry and to the image of the State of Israel in the world. We will not lend a hand to the destruction of the industry and will fight this distorted decision until the end.”
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