Anyone who’s been to the Holy Land knows that one of Israel’s major sources of income is tourism. The industry that was expected to gross $22.1 billion while comprising 7.2% of Israel’s annual GDP in 2020 has essentially disappeared due to travel restrictions. The latest predictions suggest that Israel’s tourism industry could lose up to $1.16 billion due to the COVID-19 crisis
Because of its vast history, tour guides in Israel are the only ones in the world who require a government-issued license to work after passing a rigorous exam. Today, Israel’s tour-guides are down…But they’re not out.
That’s because the Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF-USA) is helping Israeli tour guides through an innovative new ‘virtual travel’ initiative.
In launching JNF Virtual Travel & Tours, the organization’s travel department is offering seats on virtual tour buses to some of Israel’s iconic and lesser-known travel destinations. Current itineraries include visits to the Old City of Jerusalem, Ayalon Institute, Akko, Be’er Sheva, and the JNF Sderot Indoor Recreation Center.
The virtual buses will include seating for up to 22 participants. Each bus will also include a licensed Israeli tour guide and a professional JNF-USA staff member. A $50 registration fee will cover one hour of touring per day over the weeklong visit taking place Monday through Thursday (4:00 pm – 5:00 pm each day). A nightly social dinner and cocktail hour will be held from 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm (in each mainland U.S. time zone). On Friday, participants will experience a beautiful pre-shabbat experience between 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm.
Over the past few weeks, close to 1,000 participants have registered with tours catering for different demographics and interests.
“The beauty of these tours is that they allow us to directly support Israel’s tour guides while also renewing our connection to our beloved Israel,” said JNF-USA National Campaign Director, Sharon Joy. “I’m excited that participants will experience the magic of Israel virtually at a time when we are all yearning to visit in person. And thanks to the expert insights from our Israeli tour guides, we will learn about our homeland in a whole new light.”
Deena Shiff, JNF-USA’s Chief of Staff added: “We expect these tours to also have the added benefit of providing people who’ve never been to Israel with an opportunity to ‘dip their toe in the water’ without having to book flights and accommodation. We hope their brief taste of Israel will inspire them to visit once international travel resumes.”
Jewish National Fund-USA is the leading philanthropic organization for Israel that supports critical environmental and nation-building activities in Israel’s north and south. Through its One Billion Dollar Roadmap for the Next Decade, Jewish National Fund-USA is developing new communities in the Galilee and Negev, connecting the next generation to Israel, and creating an infrastructure for ecology, special