Reciprocity with other tourism-dependent nations and data-sharing are the key to the ravaged global travel industry’s recovery. The coronavirus lockdown for many millions during the peak spring season is estimated to have cost 320 million jobs around the world in an industry that in 2019 contributed $8.8bn (more than one tenth) to the lobal economy. Some airlines and many small businesses may never recover.
As the world begins exiting from pandemic lockdown, the labor-intensive hospitality, travel, restaurant and retail sectors are seen as the main engine for cutting unemployment figures. But travelers are also the main hiding-place of the unknown “super-carriers” which sustain the spread of covid-19.
Therefore, while hungry to see the tourists’ return, most governments are hesitating before extending a wholehearted welcome. The European Union, struggling to end the fragmentation induced by the pandemic, expects to lift all border checks within the bloc by the end of this month. Not all members will comply. Germany, especially, is seeing a new spike in infection figures.
The revenues of Israel’s tourism sector, excluding aviation, plunged by 80pc during the coronavirus crisis, amounting to a loss of $12m since early March. Its 330,000 lost jobs account for one-third of national unemployment which has soared past 20pc. The Red Sea town of Eilat, at Israel’s southern tip, which subsists entirely on tourism, says that with 70pc of its residents idle, the economic crisis is a bigger threat than covid-19. Adjacent to the Jordanian resort of Aqaba and Egyptian Sinai, this resort caters to some 2.5 million tourists in a normal year.
Israel’s National Coronavirus Information Center, like the Europeans, advise holding back for another month before inviting foreign travelers to return and restoring two-way air traffic. Israel is meanwhile in negotiation over renewed aviation and tourist links with 11 countries, whose pandemic rates are at a comparable level, for opening up to incoming and outgoing air traffic. They are Seychelles, Cyprus, Greece, South Korea, Slovenia, Montenegro, Georgia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Austria and Lithuania. The information center warns that once foreign tourists start arriving, covid-19 infection is bound to rise to some extent. While accepting that Israel can no longer lock itself away from the world, those experts advise keeping contagion in check by the following stipulations:
- Listing arrivals in a data bank for epidemiological research.
- Requiring each visitor to confirm non-travel to a “red country” in the previous 14 days.
- Either a 14-day quarantine and/or a coronavirus test upon arrival.
- The staged renewal of commercial flights starting with only direct flights to Israel.
- Keeping down the number of incoming tourists.
- Requiring all air passengers to wear face masks during the flight.
- Briefings for arrivals at the airport on Israel’s covid-19 regulations.