Covid-19 and multiple rounds of worldwide shutdowns almost knocked out Israel’s thriving tourism industry. Then, overnight (almost), the flow of pilgrims went from a flood down to a trickle of just a few drops—in July 2020, there were only 6,000 visitors to Israel.
But a recent report from the Israel Tourism Ministry indicates that tourism is flourishing again in the Holy Land…almost back up to pre-pandemic record levels! From only a few thousand guests in the middle of summer two years ago to this year, the numbers are impressive. Last month, Israel hosted 249,500 tourists—only 22 percent lower than 2019’s record-breaking July with 322,800 visitors.
“It’s night and day. The industry was at its [scarcest] a few months after COVID came out, closing the country, closing the skies, all over the world. I’m actually impressed that [even] 1,000 tourists came in,” said Mark Feldman, CEO of Zion Tours Jerusalem. “Everyone in the tourism industry was hanging by a thread. We let go of 95% of our staff, similar to many other places. A few hotels kept a skeleton staff running, just because it would have cost them more to fire them.”
While tourists have been flocking to Israel once again, the numbers are still only a little more than half of what they were before the pandemic. Feldman is critical of how the government handled travel restrictions as different variants of Covid crisscrossed the globe.
“The Israeli government said, ‘close the skies down,’ and that lockdown resulted in the Omicron variant coming to Israel much later than the rest of the world, which pushed us back even further,” Feldman said. “There was an incredible amount of frustration, and a large amount of people in the tourism industry [and] the aviation industry left.”
While the numbers show signs that the tourism industry is recovering at a fast pace—as many as 2.5 million people will visit Israel in 20222—it is still only half of what the industry was experiencing two years ago.
“The positive trend is continuing, and according to the information we have, this will continue through August,” Yoel Razvozov, Israel’s minister of tourism, said. And even last weekend’s Operation Breaking Dawn by the IDF in Gaza has not dampened the zeal of tourists. The rockets have stopped, the ceasefire is holding, and he said the recent conflict is “not expected to impact the hundreds of thousands of tourists visiting Israel this month. They continue to enjoy our beautiful and unique country, with its varied religious, cultural, and historical sites and a vibrant nightlife and entertainment scene.”
Tour guide Geoff Winston said, “I have been pounded with inquiries and know my colleagues have as well. Even today, I got two or three inquiries about the next two or three weeks. Hotels are at capacity, sites are at capacity. It is amazing to see.”
Elana and I are so excited to be hosting a tour again! Spots are filling up fast, but there’s still space available for you to join us. It will be an amazing and intimate tour of the Land, taking you where Yeshua walked, taught, died, was resurrected—and is coming again. You will get to meet with Messianic believers in Israel, and (one of my favorite parts of the tour besides teaching) you will taste some of the most delicious food you have ever had!
The tour is March 3-10, 2023—make your reservation today! (March will be here before we know it 😊)