TORONTO — The oversized all-caps message behind the podium for the Israel Ministry of Tourism couldn’t have made it more clear: ISRAEL IS NOW OPEN.
If there was ever any doubt, tour operators, airlines and many more of Israel’s trade partners in Canada came away from yesterday’s in-person event knowing that this much-loved and must-see destination is open for tourism.
And keeping the momentum going is key, says Gal Hana, Israel Consul of Tourism for Canada.
Hana said he wanted to deliver a message of hope, “that we’re on the verge of a real recovery.” That recovery process is ramping up, he added. “We won’t want things to go back to the way they were. We want tourism to go forward.”
Officially Israel reopened Nov. 1, to fully vaccinated international travellers including Canadians. The news followed the country’s pilot reopening program which kicked off in May 2021 for a select tour groups.
Israel is looking forward to welcoming back not just the VFR market – always a driving force, says El Al’s General Manager, Canada, Dinah Kutner – but also the wider leisure market. Travellers are looking for more from their travel experiences, notes Hana, adding that Israel, with its history, culture, cosmopolitan cities and sheer beauty, delivers. “I think people want to travel in a more meaningful way,” he said.
Earlier this month IMOT signed its first-ever marketing agreement worldwide with a Canadian company – Peerless Travel Group, based in Toronto. The new venture aims to boost promotions and marketing of Israel into 2022, and marks a strategic step for IMOT towards a strong recovery for travel to Israel from Canada and other global markets.
Joining yesterday’s event virtually, Israel’s Minister of Tourism, Yoel Rozvozov, said some Canadian groups have already started to arrive. “We see great potential for the Canadian market,” said Rozvozov.
Attendees at yesterday’s get-together also met Fiona Kosmin, who in August 2021 was appointed IMOT’s new Director of Marketing and Partnerships for Canada.
Jerry Adler, IMOT’s Deputy Director for Canada, said he’s hearing from suppliers that inquiries are coming in for Israel, for FIT as well as group booking requests.
And while the first wave of bookings in this recovery period is for winter sun destinations, “the growth expressed by each of our industry sources is that long-haul overseas travel is gaining a huge demand for the value proposition delivered for exciting, memorable experiential travel and destinations” like Israel, he said in a post-event follow-up to the trade.
“We’re expecting the floodgates,” he said yesterday. “Whether it’s for classic tours, or pilgrimage tours … the demand will fill the hotels, fill the planes. Some tour operators are already getting bookings for 2024. So, here we go.”