DUBAI: About 50,000 Israeli tourists have visited the UAE since the two countries signed the Abraham Accords normalization agreement on Sept. 15, the Israeli tourism minister said on Wednesday.
“We’re talking at the moment about roughly 50,000 Israelis all over the Emirates,” Israel’s Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen said during a virtual press conference. “I would say that a lot of Israelis, they just went there . . . Israelis are very adventurous by nature,” she said.
Israel and the UAE signed an agreement to open diplomatic, trade and economic relations between the two countries. As part of the agreement the tourism minister said that Israelis would soon be able to travel to the UAE visa-free and this was likely to start from January next year.
While there are restrictions on foreign tourists entering Israel at the moment, due to coronavirus travel restrictions, the minster has ambitious UAE targets for the future.
“Our aim, with regards to tourists entering Israel, our hope is to get 100,000 a year from the Emirates when we will start operating,” she said.
The minister was talking during the first-ever UAE-Israel tourism forum hosted by officials from Israel’s Ministry of Tourism. The forum included more than 300 trade partners from the UAE and 100 partners from Israel.
“Tourism is key to building a lasting peace between countries, and Israel looks forward to welcoming travelers from the UAE. I am certain visitors from the Emirates and other countries will enjoy the unique blend of this new, and near, destination. Israel is where thousands of years of history meet modern-day life. It is the home of Tel Aviv and the StartUp Nation and of ancient Caesarea and the magnificent Dead Sea,” Farkash-Hacohen said in a press statement.
Many UAE airlines have already started flights to Israel. Flydubai currently operates 14 flights a week between Dubai and Tel Aviv, and Emirates and Etihad Airways are due to start direct flights in 2021. Israel’s Israir and El Al Airline currently operate flights to the UAE, and Arkia Airline will begin operations in January.