The some 200,000 Israelis who worked in tourism before the pandemic should find new careers, says Finance Minister, as the blanket ban on foreigners entering the country won’t be lifted anytime soon.
By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News
Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman made it clear that there’s no sign of hope on the horizon for Israel’s embattled tourism industry during a cabinet meeting this week, advising the some 200,000 people who worked in the field before the coronavirus pandemic to find new jobs.
After the government agreed to extend a maximally restrictive blanket ban on foreign tourists, Liberman essentially admitted that there is no time frame in mind for ending the policy.
“As for travel agents and tour guides, it should be said: Start changing professions,” he said.
“From four and a half million tourists [in 2019] we went down to 200,000 [post-pandemic] … A significant number of [tourism workers] have already changed fields,” he argued.
Liberman’s remarks sparked anger among Israeli tourism workers, some of whom spoke to Channel 12 about their frustration.
Tour guide Yoav Rotem said Liberman’s comments were flippant, disrespectful, and showed a lack of understanding of the importance of tourism to the Israeli economy.
He “does not understand that the closure of tourism hurts every Israeli, because the money that comes from tourism can build hospitals in Israel,” Rotem told Channel 12.
“We have tourist bookings through 2023…the tourists want to come, but the government does not allow them…so if the government wants to close the sky, then they must compensate us,” he added.
“Every service provider knows that there is such a thing as a cancellation fee, and the government has now canceled 19 of my [upcoming] working days – and I’m writing an invoice to the Prime Minister.”
Israeli airline companies, which have faced major struggles throughout the pandemic, are also feeling the brunt of the decision.
“It is insane to shut down such a large industry in one day,” said Lizzie Shalom, CEO of Israir subsidiary Tayelet.
She said it is absurd that the Israeli government “views our industry as leisure” and therefore unworthy of protection, and added that she was upset by the government “deciding our fate.”
Rotem added that tourism workers are not unemployed – rather, they are being forcibly put out of work by governmental policies, not the market.
“Whoever closes my workplace, and disables me — I’m not unemployed, I’m disabled. It’s him, and his government.”