One Operator’s Outlook: Israel Tourism Recovery Reflecting Post-Covid Trends

How one Israel-based operator is weathering the current travel disruption, and when they expect travelers to return to the region

Reading Time: 4 minutes 35 seconds

The recent outbreak and escalation of violence in the Israel and Palestine region is another difficult blow to operators still struggling to rebuild in the aftermath of Covid.

“The last month for us has been from 100 to zero in a second, even more dramatic than the way things shut down in Covid,” said Ben Julius, founder at Tourist Israel, which typically hosts 150,000 travelers per year. “Israel only reopened last summer from Covid, so we’ve only had 12 months of recovery.”

Julius spoke with Arival to share Tourist Israel’s perspective on the current impact of the war on tourism bookings, and their outlook for 2024.

Local, Regional Tourism Impact of War 

“We also see that our bookings in Jordan and Egypt have also dried up,” Julius continued. “There’s an impact on the whole region… Tourism is very intertwined especially between Jordan and Israel.”

“We were planning to have 15,000 tourists traveling with us this [October], and the first week was really on target and then just…” he trails off. 

Tours in the wider region have also dropped off significantly as travelers avoid the area, such as this tour to Petra | Photo: Tourist Israel

Israel bookings are not the only ones being impacted: destinations that are used to receiving travelers from Israel are also feeling the effects. 

“The recent disruption has certainly caused confusion among travelers considering trips to the Middle East,” shared Firoz Musthafa, Co-Founder and COO of Dubai-based tours and activities online travel agency (OTA) Thrillark. While Dubai bookings themselves have remained unaffected by the outbreak of conflict in Israel-Palestine, Thrillark expects “a significant reduction in travelers from Israel to Dubai, as major airlines have reduced their operations to and from Tel Aviv due to the escalating conflict.”

Musthafa also shared that, while Morocco and Oman are widely regarded as safe options for travel, Turkey “has experienced heightened tensions in the region as a result of the outbreak.”

Arival 360 | Berlin 2024

2 – 4 March 2024

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Tourist Israel Focused on Experiential Tours, Local Interaction

Tourist Israel focuses on tours that encourage travelers to interact with locals. “We found there’s a lack of experiential tours [in Israel],” he explains. “We’re trying to create an experience which fuses the main locations that people can’t compromise on visiting with very unique inside experiences that we really go deep on.” Whether it’s interacting with a chef in Jerusalem, or sleeping in a Bedouin camp in Jordan, or a coffee factory in Italy that’s never been open to the public,  “we really try to insert that experience in whatever we do.”

“My belief is that the experiences that people go back with… are not the ones that they expected,” says Julius. “People expect that Petra’s going to be the highlight, but the conversation they had with the Bedouin man in the camp is the one they go home and remember.”

Travelers visit a Bedouin camp in Jordan | Photo: Tourist Israel

Tourism Outlook Optimistic for 2024

While tours in Israel are on hold at the moment, Julius is optimistic about the industry’s ability to bounce back. “Israel is always a very dynamic and unpredictable place, and there’s always been flare ups… whether it comes to a few days or something more dramatic, so we’ve become very resilient to adjusting to the situation.” 

“Things come back more and more quickly [since Covid] so we hope that will happen again… we are seeing more comparisons in the trend here to Covid and during November so far are seeing traffic reflect the Covid period and a small but steady flow of new reservations,” Julius shares. “We have already begun receiving more interest from tourists planning to travel to Israel in 2024.” 

They’re also finding themselves acting as a source of information for travelers. “Our customer support is still working seven days a week… providing a lot of general information and optimism to people who are dreaming of and planning future trips,” shares Julius. “We find that our brand is being strengthened by this and the resilience is encouraging us for the future.”

“I think one of the biggest challenges we have is fighting the media images,” observes Julius. “As soon as this ends there will be a recovery period of a few months and we hope that after those few months things will go back to how they were before.” 

Note: for another perspective, see also our recent interview with Abraham Hostels & Tours and Visit Hebron Palestine. Are you an experience operator based in Israel, Gaza or the surrounding regions, and being impacted by the current situation? If you have a story to share, please let us know

Learn More At Arival 360 | Berlin

Experiential Tourism will be an important topic at Arival 360 | Berlin 2024, as will the outlook for tour operators around the world, particularly in Europe and the surrounding regions. Join us in March to learn more. 

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