As Omicron infiltrates conversation and population, Israeli authorities have decided to shut down its borders and bar entry of foreigners from a growing list of 50 countries. The announcement came as a shock to many, whose livelihoods depend on tourism, which turned to anger when Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman said that tour guides and travel agents “should find another job.”
Hundreds of tourism workers gathered at the once again shuttered airport to protest government inaction, voicing that other country governments are placing focus on investing in their tourism industry instead of tearing it down. Yaniv Poria, a professor of tourism and dean of Ben Gurion University Eilat campus, called the decision to shut down so quickly irresponsible, saying that “If the prime minister makes a miserable, thoughtless, and cowardly decision to shut down tourism in Israel when other countries are not doing the same – preventing tourists from visiting Israel while allowing Israelis to travel abroad – then the tourism minister should have made sure that there would be some form of compensation.”
In addition to the hard-hit shop owners, tour guides, bus drivers, travel agents, those who have booked flights are being deceived by airline and flight cancellation policies. Now that travel is restricted without approvals, and no foreign entry allowed in, thousands of Israelis have needed to cancel or postpone flights, yet are being met with exorbitant cancellation fees, or are finding that the small print of insurance policies requires a positive corona diagnosis.
In one of many circumstances, one Israeli says “It seems I wasted my money and it is very infuriating. We booked an EasyJet flight for 171 euros and coronavirus insurance for 16 euros each. I looked up what the refund policy was and found out each one of us will get only NIS 35. We bought low cost and got swindled.”
As of Wednesday, the Israeli cabinet has banned travel to the United States, Canada, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Morocco, Portugal, Switzerland, and Turkey, in addition to those that were already considered ‘red.’