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World

Israel tourism sinks 82pc during 2020 pandemic after record year in 2019

  • Data published by the Central Bureau of Statistics on Tuesday showed just 888,200 visitors to Israel last year.
  • Israel's economy is estimated to have contracted 3.7% in 2020.
05 Jan 2021

JERUSALEM: Tourism to Israel slid 82% in 2020 after the country closed its borders to foreigners for most of the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, adding injury to an already battered economy.

Data published by the Central Bureau of Statistics on Tuesday showed just 888,200 visitors to Israel last year -- with nearly 786,000 of them coming in the first three months when tourists were still allowed.

In 2019, tourism reached a record high of 4.55 million, which injected some 23 billion shekels ($7.2 billion) into the economy, mainly in small and medium-sized businesses, the Tourism Ministry said. It added that the economy's loss from tourism in 2020 was more than $5 billion.

Israel's economy is estimated to have contracted 3.7% in 2020.

The ministry said it has prepared a work plan for bringing back tourists in the middle of 2021.

"A lot of work still lies ahead of us, we will find the right balance between the economy and the virus and we will give breathing space to the various sectors that have been affected in the industry," said Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen.

The bureau also said that the number of Israelis who left the country in 2020 fell 83% to 1.5 million -- 1.1 million leaving between January and March.