As the country aims to slowly reopen after a national lockdown that began on Sept. 18, the Knesset is considering declaring the resort city of Eilat and the Dead Sea hotels “green” COVID-free tourist zones.
“The implementation of the decision is expected to reduce unemployment in Eilat and the Dead Sea and is part of a plan to rehabilitate the tourism industry, which has been severely damaged during the coronavirus crisis,” the Tourism ministry said.
A negative corona test will be required for visitors, which at this point is still limited to only Israelis.
“The green tourism islands outline approved by the government is the result of a very complex dialogue with the Health Ministry and a great effort to bring this before the government to get it moving,” Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen said in the statement.
After breaking tourism records each year, 2020 was expected to see nearly 5 million tourists to Israel. The Israeli economy is largely dependent on tourism and yet the borders have been closed since March preventing any foreigners from entering Israel.
Eilat and the Dead Sea area rely almost exclusively on tourism and account for 30 percent of the country’s tourism industry. The reopening of these areas to Israeli tourists will hopefully give some life to the flailing sector.
“There is no doubt in my eyes that this process is not a replacement for the need to open and rehabilitate the entire tourism industry and the immediate opening of rural tourism in Israel,” Farkash-Hacohen said in the statement.
A multi-phase plan for exiting the lockdown is scheduled to take four months or more, and it is still unclear when foreigners will be allowed to return to Israel, which, sadly, is not likely before the first month or two of 2021.