If there was one person who could truly be called an icon of the travel industry, it was Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart.
TORONTO — Travel agents and industry professionals still have time to register for ISRAEL | TOURISM 3.0, set to take place on Jan. 20.
The virtual event, hosted by Gal Hana, Israel Consul of Tourism for Canada, will feature esteemed keynote speakers and hotel and wholesaler panels who’ll discuss next steps in Israel’s recovery amid the ongoing pandemic, and how the tourism industry as a whole will look far off in the future.
To register click here. ISRAEL | TOURISM 3.0 will take place on Jan. 20 from 1:00-3:00 p.m. EST.
Travelweek spoke with Hana to discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic will likely change the way people book and sell travel, and what registrants can expect during the two-hour event. Here’s the interview in full:
TRAVELWEEK: As we start a new year, what is your outlook for Israel in 2021, both short-term and long-term?
HANA: I am happy to share that Israel is the leading country in the world in vaccinated population. The government made a tremendous global effort to get as many as possible to try to contain the pandemic and get through 2020, which was a year to forget. However, last year, we utilized the time to improve infrastructure – we developed and expanded promenades, new attractions, new and renovated hotels and more. Parallel to that, Israel gradually started domestic travel with very positive feedback.
We hope that by the second quarter we will be able to welcome inbound travel. In the short term, we will continue in our proactive approach by engaging with the industry as much as possible through quality, creative and innovative virtual events, all in order to keep the audience inspired by Israel.
As for the long term, once we have a clearer sense of the actual date when worldwide travel will resume, we’ll have a strategic plan that includes hostings, marketing activities and partnerships to execute.
TW: Do you think the pandemic will forever change the way people travel? If so, what new trends do you foresee?
HANA: The short answer will be ‘yes’ but the longer version is that I think it’s more complicated. People will want more assurance, knowledge and to even experience the destination prior to the purchase decision. People were unfortunately forced to virtually travel the world in 2020, and they will need more information on the destination to make sure the experience will be worth it. Also, people will probably want more holistic destinations to get as many holiday segments as possible while on vacation.
On the one hand everyone can’t wait to travel again, but on the other hand the economy is hurting badly and free income isn’t like in 2019. People will want to make sure that their travel will be memorable.
I believe that the VFRs and faith-based travel will recover quickly. We’re already receiving many inquiries about when people will be able to come. On top of that, I anticipate that leisure travel will also recover, at least among certain age groups that are less affected by the pandemic and were the first to travel domestically – they will lead the way for the international market.
It’s also important to note that there were less cancellations and more postponements with the Canadian market. People want to come to Israel and that gives hope for everyone.
TW: How do you think the pandemic will change the way travel agents sell travel?
HANA: The industry will need to be much more creative and innovative to sell a product in a world where ‘old school’ itineraries won’t be enough. People will want to virtually walk in the Via Delarosa with a tour guide to get a feel for the visit and hear more stories about our diverse culinary scene. The need for engagement from consumers will be higher, and the ecosystem should implement more technologies to improve and provide tailor-made journeys to match specific needs. The world of ‘one itinerary fits all’ is gone – everyone will need their personal preferences embedded in their trip.
We live in a disruptive era and we must adjust accordingly. The future tourist already has all the information within reach so the value proposition of the industry should focus on the added value of combining many preferences into one holistic experience. Everyone can book a hotel but not many are familiar with a boutique hotel that is close to a specific food stand that sells a special delicatessen in the early morning. The ability to demonstrate these elements technologically will have the ability to shift more consumers upward in the consumer funnel.
TW: How do you foresee travel in the distant future?
HANA: Imagine yourself in a world where all the information on you is available. It’s gathered from IoT on your clothes and Smart home, from your Netflix and your emails. It knows when you are bored during a movie and what scenes wake you up, what topics you love to speak of and with that, it can identify the ideal vacation destination for you. When you then go to a travel professional for advice, they will use the information to gather a one-of-a-kind itinerary specifically for you. It will take you to a spicy fish & chips stand because of the episode of ‘Top Chef’ you enjoyed the most, and it will take you on the Tel-Aviv Graffiti tour due to your love of fashion and critical thinking. Thanks to technology and VR goggles, you will ‘travel’ and get a feeling of the journey to decide what should be improved.
TW: Why do you think it’s important for all travel industry professionals to tune into ISRAEL | TOURISM 3.0?
HANA: I believe that strategic planning is something important and in these days of the pandemic, even now more than ever. To sit back and wait for things to get better without forecasting and evolving will make on irrelevant, without a chance for recover. The pace that everything is changing is so fast that you don’t have time to think too much or think at all. There is a need for an agile approach, to draw a vision for the long run but parallel to that, we must think in closer terms and execute in a trial and error mode. This is what we want to inspire with our event. We have the best speakers in these fields and Israel is world renowned for its innovation and technology. I honestly think that this is the way to move forward.
For more information about into ISRAEL | TOURISM 3.0 go to https://www.travelweek.ca/news/register-now-for-israel-tourism-3-0/.