Fun and sun in the PH for Israeli travelers soon | Inquirer Business
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Fun and sun in the PH for Israeli travelers soon

The Philippines is looking forward to soon inviting Israeli tourists back into the country, according to Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat.“ As the world gears up for ‘revenge travel’ hopefully this 2021, we need the government and the private sector to synchronize strategies in navigating the new normal, enticing more of the Israeli market to come and visit our glorious islands,” said Puyat during the recent “Meet Israel 101” virtual event hosted by the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Israeli Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ICCP) via Zoom.

Calculated approach

“Tourism was impacted, but industry players are confident we’re headed toward recovery. We can achieve this through a calculated approach that balances tourism with health and safety,” she added.

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The Philippines had seen a nearly 200-percent increase in tourist arrivals from Israel between 2013 and 2019, a trend which was reversed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, Israel’s main international transportation hub, Ben Gurion Airport, recorded an 81-percent decrease in outbound international flights compared with the previous year. Many remain optimistic, however. Israel is aiming to resume outbound travel by the second quarter of 2021, tourism expert Golan Yossifon said. “Israel is projected to vaccinate all its citizens by mid-March with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and all those who get vaccinated will receive a ‘green passport,’” Yossifon explained.

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Visa-free policies

The “green passport,” which the country’s health ministry plans to launch by next week, is an immunity document allowing anyone who has received both doses of the vaccine to travel. It will be valid for six months and will exempt citizens from having to quarantine when they return from abroad.

Travel to the Philippines will depend on a number of factors, Yossifon added, including the status of COVID-19 in the country, international flight availability, and the success of Israel’s vaccination program.

The DOT is eyeing the Israeli market in particular, seeing it has a lot of potential, as it is one of the fastest growing in tourist interest. Puyat notes that other measures which will lure Israeli visitors to the Philippines include direct air access, and more competitive and enticing tour packages.

Yoav Golan, ICCP’s vice president for public relations, agrees with the tourism secretary. “Hopefully when things go back to normal, we will see Philippine Airlines considering direct flights,” he said.

Golan discussed the reasons Israelis love the Philippines. For one, reality show Survivor Israel has filmed six seasons around the archipelago, tempting droves of backpackers and adventurers. They like the affordability, the ease of communication and the convenience of a visa-free arrangement between the two countries, he said.

Historical ties

The two countries enjoy visa-free policies and a close relationship owing to historical ties, commented Rafael Harpaz, the Israeli ambassador to the Philippines. In the late 1930s, President Manuel Quezon’s Open Doors policy welcomed to Manila 1,200 Jews escaping persecution in Germany and Austria. Years later, President Manuel Roxas became the only Asian leader to vote “yes” to the creation of Israel at the United Nations.

Harpaz adds that these ties continue as in recent years the Israeli government has trained thousands of Filipinos in agriculture, health, and science, and built field hospitals in response to Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in 2013. He also extended his country’s thanks to the 30,000 Filipino caretakers looking after Israel’s vulnerable elderly citizens. It is with this close connection between the two countries that the Philippine tourism industry looks forward to welcoming tourists from Israel once travel resumes. INQ

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