Saturday, April 17, 2021

UAE and Israel relations stand to benefit Middle East tourism and Dubai Expo 2020

By Martin Palicki

Leaders from Visit Israel and Visit Dubai are optimistic about opportunities for increased travel to the Middle East thanks to the recent Abraham Accords, which laid the groundwork for normalizing relations between Israel and the UAE. During a virtual presentation with travel agents and journalists on March 3, 2021, Chad Martin (director of NE region for Visit Israel) and Soraya Alolama (head of North America for Visit Dubai) spoke to the appeal of visiting both Israel and Dubai in one trip for North American visitors, though the agreement is likely to have profound tourism effects throughout the region.

Here are some highlights:

On Tourism Stats

20% of Israel’s tourists come from North America, with a total of 1.2 million American visitors in 2019 (up from 650,000 in 2016). By comparison, Dubai sees about 7% of its tourism from North America, with 817,000 visiting in 2018. The two anticipate the ease of travel between the two countries will help entice even more visitors to add both countries to their travel plans in coming years.

On Ease of Travel

In addition to enjoying nonstop flights between the connecting countries, visitors no longer need to worry about having a stamp from Israel in their passport. “No major destination will turn you away with an Israeli passport stamp,” says Visit Israel’s Martin. Visitors can still opt out of receiving the stamp.

On Tourism Models

The two countries consider their tourism industries to be complementary, with Dubai leading the way in the MENA region in building theme parks, waterparks and attractions while Israel provides cultural and historic destinations that appeal to a wide range of visitors.

On COVID

Israel and the UAE top the list of countries administering the most COVID vaccinations per capita. Both have aggressive policies mandating mask wearing and limiting occupancy in gathering locations. Visitors to Dubai can receive an $800 fine if caught not wearing a mask in public by one of the UAE’s undercover COVID inspectors.

On Expo 2020

The Abraham Accords also stands to benefit organizers of Dubai Expo 2020 (October 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022). In addition to appealing to North American and European travelers intent on visiting Israel, the Expo is likely to see a boost from Israeli nationals themselves. As was noted in a New York Times editorial, over 130,000 Israelis traveled (during a pandemic) to the UAE when commercial flights operated in November, December (2020), and January (2021).

To ease COVID concerns, Israeli officials halted international flying in and out of Tel Aviv in late January and the restriction is scheduled to continue through at least March 6, 2021. Once regular flights resume, some experts expect upwards of 500,000 Israelis to visit the UAE each year. With Expo planners forecasting 25 million visitors over the course of the event, the added flight capacity and 8.5 million Israelis to market to will be helpful in achieving that goal.

Martin Palicki
Martin Palicki owns and publishes InPark Magazine. Started in 2004, InPark Magazine provides owners and operators the perspective from "in"side the "park." Martin has also written for publications like Sound & Communications, Lighting & Sound America, Attractions Management and others. Martin has been featured in Time Magazine, CNN.com and Folio. Martin lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.

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