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Gaza war plunges Israel tourism industry into crisis

March 4, 2024 at 3:44 pm

A few people line up in the passport section for international arrivals at empty Ben Gurion Airport, Israel’s only international airport, after many flights from abroad are cancelled due to the attacks launched by Palestinian factions in Tel Aviv, Israel on October 8, 2023. [Turgut Alp Boyraz – Anadolu Agency]

Israel’s deadly war on the Gaza Strip has plunged the country’s tourism industry into a new crisis, with tourist inflows drastically reduced, Anadolu Agency reports.

The Israeli army launched a destructive onslaught on Palestinian Territories following a Hamas attack on 7 October, which Tel Aviv says killed nearly 1,200 people.

However, since then, it has been revealed by Haaretz that helicopters and tanks of the Israeli army had, in fact, killed many of the 1,139 soldiers and civilians claimed by Israel to have been killed by the Palestinian Resistance.

At least 30,534 Palestinians have since been killed and 71,920 others injured amid mass destruction and shortages of necessities.

As Tel Aviv continues to pound the Gaza Strip for the 150th day now, many airlines have suspended their flights to Israel.

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According to an Anadolu tally based on figures released by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, around 180,000 tourists visited Israel in Q4 of 2023, down from 930,000 tourists in Q4 of 2022, indicating an 81.5 per cent decline.

When the Gaza conflict broke out in October 2023, over 89,007 tourists visited Israel, a 73 per cent decrease from the previous year’s 333,005 visitors.

In November, the number of tourists visiting Israel reached 38,003, down from 333,007 in November 2022, with a drop of 78.5 per cent.

A total of 52,008 tourists visited Israel in December 2023, down from 266,002 tourists in December 2022, indicating an 80 per cent decline.

In 2023, approximately 3 million tourists visited Israel, down from 4.5 million in 2019.

Tourism accounts for about 3 per cent of Israel’s economy and employs around 200,000 Israelis directly, according to the Tourism Ministry.

Israel was expecting to receive 5.5 million visitors in 2023, one million more than the previous record set in 2019.

However, Yossi Fattal, Director of the Chamber of Inbound Tourism Organisers in Israel, expressed concern last month about the Gaza conflict’s impact on the country’s tourism industry.

Fattal told Maariv newspaper that 250 airlines operated in Israel before the outbreak of the Gaza conflict, but only 45 companies now operate, resulting in isolation comparable to that of North Korea.

“This has made Israel one of the most isolated countries in the world, with only 20 per cent of flights operated by airlines other than Israel’s El Al,” he said.

The Israeli war has pushed 85 per cent of Gaza’s population into internal displacement amid acute shortages of food, clean water and medicine, while 60 per cent of the enclave’s infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice. An interim ruling in January ordered Tel Aviv to stop genocidal acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.

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