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Israeli tourism hits rock bottom as travelers refuse to pay for Gaza genocide

By Maryam Qarehgozlou

Airlines are reluctant to resume flights, tourist sites wear a deserted look and hotels are empty, bringing the once-flourishing tourism industry of the Israeli regime to a standstill.

Monthly figures announced by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) revealed that last month only 500 single-day visits to the occupied territories were registered, compared to 14,000 in January 2023, indicating a drastic decrease of 96 percent.

Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza, now nearing its fifth month, has taken a heavy toll on its economy. The war, according to the regime’s finance ministry, will likely cost it approximately $13.8 billion.

In November, the Bank of Israel pared back its estimates for annual economic growth to 2 percent for 2023 and 2024, down from 2.3 percent and 2.8 percent.

CBS reported last week that Israel’s economy shrunk at an annual rate of nearly 20 percent in the final quarter of 2023.

These developments come as the Israeli aggression against Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip continues to claim civilian lives, now about 30,000, while also spawning the humanitarian crisis.

Tourism industry in tatters

Israel’s tourism sector has suffered the most as both foreign and domestic tourism in the occupied territories have flatlined since the start of the war, barely coming out of the COVID-19 shock.

The travel industry used to make up nearly 3 percent of the Tel Aviv regime’s GDP before the pandemic in 2019. The figure fell to 1.1 percent in 2021 and the sector has been unable to bounce back ever since.

The war broke out during the busiest tourism quarter of the year for Israel, which includes the Christmas and New Year holidays.

However, by the end of 2023, only 3 million tourists visited the occupied territories, compared to the 5.5 million that officials had previously anticipated, the tourism ministry said.

Before the Operation Al-Aqsa Storm (also known as Al-Aqsa Flood) launched by the Gaza-based resistance group Hamas on October 7, visitors to the Israeli-occupied territories numbered above 300,000 each month. In November, that figure reportedly sank to 39,000.

The Israeli daily Calcalist reported in January that while 900,000 tourists were expected to visit in the three months after the start of the war on Gaza, the number dropped to 190,000.

Hotels in the occupied Old City have been reportedly shut for months, and some others are receiving funding from the occupying regime to house Israelis displaced by the war.

Marwa Taha Abu Rani, manager of the Fauzi Azar hostel in the occupied Old City, was quoted as saying by AFP that after the war began in October, all future bookings were canceled.

“We aren’t working at all,” she said. “There’s no one.”

The collapse of the tourism sector has put tour guides, hotel staff, bus drivers and others out of work.

Why tourism is down?

The tourism sector is evaporating partly because most international airlines immediately grounded their flights to Tel Aviv after the war was launched, not ready to swim in troubled waters.

The refusal of low-priced airlines and, in particular major US airlines, to resume flights to the occupied territories combined with high prices announced by Israeli carrier El Al, has dealt a death knell to the regime’s economy in general and the tourism sector in particular.

Last week, the Director General of the Chamber of Inbound Tourism Organizers, Yossi Fattal, told the Israeli newspaper Maariv that the regime has become “isolated like North Korea,” as airlines are reluctant to resume flying to the occupied territories.

“Before the crisis, 250 airline companies were operating in Israel (occupied territories), and now only 45 companies are operating,” Fattal said, adding that currently 80 percent of flights are operated by an Israeli aircraft belonging to the El Al company.

He compared the Israeli regime with North Korea, one of the most isolated countries in the world.

In a report in November, Secret Flights, a website that tracks flight data, revealed an 80-percent average decline in flights to and from Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv since October 7.

The figures showed that 100 flights per day landed at Ben Gurion Airport during the period between October and November, compared to 500 daily flights before that.

Fattal said the staggering fall of Israel’s tourism sector is a “victory for Hamas over Israel.”

Additionally, the call-up of thousands of Israeli military reservists to the war, leaving their jobs, has put a damper on the travel industry while also taking a heavy toll on other sectors.

The operations carried out by Palestinian and regional resistance groups, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, Islamic Resistance in Iraq and the Yemeni military in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza have also contributed to the economic disaster the regime is facing today.

Mission unaccomplished

To reverse the trend, Israeli tourism officials have been pleading with their foreign sponsors to help revive the sector even as the genocidal war on Gaza rages on.

The Israeli regime has been promoting its tourism at a travel show in Washington DC, which was disrupted by pro-Palestine activists to bring attention to the ongoing war against Gaza.

The US-based anti-war group Code Pink took to X, formerly Twitter, to announce that the regime was promoting tourism at a convention in Washington, DC, which didn’t work out.

“Both days were disrupted, first by [activists] Samar and William Langhorne, and then by CODEPINK co-director Danaka Katovich,” the group posted on X on Tuesday.

“Israel tourism we say no, you are committing genocide we won’t go,” the Langhornes chanted on the first day of the convention while William was holding a Palestinian flag.

“Don’t spend money in apartheid Israel,” Katovich shouted on the second day of the event while holding a sign that read “Israel kills kids.”

One Zionist group ‘The Sword of Iron-Israel Volunteer Opportunities’ has been offering a ‘solidarity tourism experience’ on its Facebook group, urging people to travel to occupied territories.

However, there are no takers for such offers, as the regime stands exposed.

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