Israel to woo UAE visitors as it prepares to relaunch tourism

By: AFP      Published: 09:08 PM, 27 Apr, 2021
Israel to woo UAE visitors as it prepares to relaunch tourism

Israel announced plans on Tuesday to attract visitors from the United Arab Emirates, after last year's historic normalisation deal and as the Jewish state prepares to re-open to groups of vaccinated tourists on May 23.

Israel's borders have largely been closed since March 2020, when it imposed its first of three pandemic lockdowns.

But a successful vaccination campaign has enabled a broad economic re-opening, months after the UAE became only the third Arab state to establish full ties with Israel in a US-brokered deal.

"Dubai has great tourism potential for Israel," Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen told reporters, as she unveiled a marketing push including a billboard campaign in Dubai. 

Israeli officials have predicted interest among Emirati tourists, notably in seeing the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam's third holiest site, which is in annexed east Jerusalem. 

Farkash-Hacohen said that while Israel would initially only let tour groups into the country, vaccinated individual travellers would be granted entry from July. 

Beyond tourism, economic cooperation has played a central role in the so-called Abraham Accords -- most recently with Monday's announcement that Israeli gas firm Delek had agreed in principle to sell its stake in a vast offshore project to the UAE's Mubadala Petroleum for a cool $1.1 billion.

As well as the new UAE tourism pitch, Farkash-Hacohen said Israel was expected a resurgence of visitors from traditional destinations including Britain and the United States. 

More than half of Israel's 9.3 million residents have received the two recommended shots of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, a campaign that has sent infection rates plunging and allowed the resumption of large public events. 

Farkash-Hacohen said her office will market the upcoming Pride Parade in Tel Aviv, an international music festival and a cycling tour to help attract visitors.  

The tourism ministry will also offer perks to airlines flying to the Red Sea resort city of Eilat.