Can Israel benefit from “revenge tourism” after the COVID crisis?

If you haven’t heard the phrase “revenge trip” (also known as revenge tourism) yet, you’ll likely hear more about it in the coming months. After being forced to not travel or do almost anything for a couple of years, people want revenge on COVID, travel restrictions, fear, boredom and loneliness. They desperately want to make up for lost time and see their family and friends elsewhere.

Forbes explains that in our current post-pandemic thinking, “many people are tired of being at home, is fully vaccinated and has been saving money and travel miles for her first post-pandemic trip.” India Today explains that revenge trips stem from “fatigue or exhaustion from monotony”.

The list of people talking about revenge travel is long, as are the queues at airports.

Revenge trips are great. The question for Israel is: Can we ride the wave of revenge travel? In the current circumstances, how can we (the Ministry of Tourism and private companies) sell Israel to potential tourists?

Of course, we have to share all the amazing things Israel has to offer (from the beaches to the Wailing Wall). And, of course, we need to target potential groups with approaches that are most likely to target them (Christian pilgrims respond to different ads than visitors from the Gulf States). Still, is there anything to note?

What is overtourism?
Jews pray at the Western Wall on Jerusalem Day. The Kotel is the most visited place in Israel, according to the Ministry of Tourism. (Photo: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Take for example the successful 2018 campaign of the Ministry of Tourism aimed at potential European tourists. An impressive video (Tel Aviv and Jerusalem: 2 sunny cities – a getaway!) was created with the 60’s hit song “Sunny” and promoting both cities as fun sunny vacation spots. Although some images included a nod to the story, the goal of the campaign was above all fun in the sun. More than 60 million Europeans saw the ad, which clearly targeted a certain demographic (young successful people). It was a marketing decision to present Israel that way, and apparently a good one.

During the pandemic, it was more important to highlight other issues. When things started to open up in 2021, then Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen announced: “Israel today is a world leader in safety and health, and we will make sure that every potential tourist knows… “With Israel’s good reputation in handling the pandemic, this made sense.

How should Israel position itself now?

From my conversations with travel industry professionals, it seems there are three main points to keep in mind.

FIRST: People are stressed, they want a break and they want to have fun. Konrad Waliszewski, CEO of travel app Tripscout, said: “Initially, we’re seeing the most enthusiasm for post-pandemic revenge trips to sun and sand destinations… Everyone’s had a rough year, so , although they are eager for new cultures and adventures, they first want to give themselves a well-deserved rest”.

However, this is not the whole story. Rabbi Ari Gruen, director of Olami Israel Tours, stressed: “This is not just about having fun, about a vacation, or getting revenge on COVID. Students and young professionals sign up for experiential trips. Of course, there is a lot of fun, but it is also about Israel, the Jewish people and Judaism. And we can’t roll out travel fast enough.”

Similarly, a representative from Mayanot Israel, which organizes trips to Israel affiliated with Chabad, wrote to me that they are seeing “a boost in all departments… After being in lockdown, people appreciate freedom very much, but he also wants content.” Avi Schwartz, regional director of GoInspire, a large tourism company specializing in missions to Israel, said that “it’s not just about sitting on a beach. People also ask for all the history, spirituality, teaching and experiences that Israel offers.”

There may be something deeper that motivates these kinds of revenge rides, too. As Waliszewski says, “We are no longer going to take it for granted that there will always be a flight tomorrow and an open border waiting for us. Let’s make up for lost time and experiences with a vengeance.”. Visiting the Holy Land is on the bucket list of countless people around the world, so Israel is in a prime position to benefit from revenge tourism.

Lastly, people have money to spend. In fact, many of them want to spend money on travel now. Low-income families have had a tough time during the pandemic, and they are being hurt by inflation. But actually, they are unlikely to visit Israel in any case, due to the costs involved. The pandemic has had the opposite effect on many people.

Aneta Markowska, chief economist at Jefferies (the world’s seventh largest investment bank), explained that most Americans are really flush with cash right now: “It’s not just the rich, it’s 80% of the population.” . Furthermore, based on Federal Reserve statistics, Bloomberg reported on March 30 that US consumers had saved approximately $4.2 trillion (NIS 14.5 trillion) of extra money. In fact, CNN describes travel tourism as wastefulsaying: “Two years or so of staying home means some people have saved money and can now splurge on a fancier hotel, first-class plane ticket or once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

In fact, veteran guide Moshe Hamburg of Your Israel Tours explains, “I’ve never seen anything like it. We receive several calls a day. His bar and bat mitzvah trips have been postponed and his children are growing up; all kinds of people: secular, religious, and everything in between. People have saved money to have fun and get to know Israel”.

Can Israel benefit from “revenge tourism” after the COVID crisis?