Coronavirus delivers blow to Israeli tourism: Up to 60% tour cancellations expected

The Israel Incoming Tour Operators Association is anticipating “a 50%-60% drop in the volume of organized tour groups to Israel.”

By World Israel News Staff 

Beyond the cancellations of future trips to China and other countries in the East Asia region due to the threat posed by the outbreak of the coronavirus, tourists are also backing out of vacations to other places in the world in the aftermath of the epidemic, including Israel, reports Globes.

Yossi Fattal, director general of  the Israel Incoming Tour Operators Association, is anticipating “a 50%-60% drop in the volume of organized tour groups to Israel,” says the Israeli business news outlet.

For now, says Fatal, “It’s still marginal, 10% cancellations, but it’s obvious to us that this is a global trend. It’s not related to us, but it will also reach here. It will be of very substantial proportions.”

He told Globes that “emergency discussions” have been taking place among Israeli tour operators on how to deal with the possibility of mass cancellations.

“The market is in shock,” he says, adding that “We’re getting dozens of calls from groups in Europe and the U.S.” With Israel’s tourism industry under threat, many who work in the industry are seeking other ways to make money, such as learning about affiliate marketing and e-commerce solutions.

The fears have also reportedly spread to Israeli tourists who are raising concerns over travelling to destinations far away from the center of the coronavirus epidemic.

“Travelers who purchased a vacation in Warsaw are calling me, and they are worried,” says an unnamed veteran tourist agent cited by the business news outlet as accusing Israel’s Health Ministry of sowing panic.

“There is a drastic decline in bookings for East Asia, and that’s understandable, but bookings in general have come to a standstill, even for Passover flights to Verona or Cyprus,” says the agent.

“Our goal is to delay the arrival of the virus to Israel – I say ‘delay,’ because it is inevitable that it will arrive,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on February 2 at one of a series of meetings that are said to have taken place in Israel with the participation of officials of relevant bodies to discuss the potential threat.

The Health Ministry issued an order requiring anyone returning from China to spend two weeks in isolation.

On January 30, Health Minister Yaakov Litzman stopped all further flights from China into Israel.

El Al Israel Airlines notified the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange last week that its first quarter revenue would be $30 million lower than projected as a result of cancelled flights and a halt in new bookings, “mainly for destinations in East Asia,” reported Globes.

El Al added that it was “monitoring global developments concerning the coronavirus regularly and assessing the consequences for its operations,” according to the Israeli business news outlet.