The Israeli tourism minister says his country is looking into the possibility of joining a safe zone for travel that is currently in the works between Cyprus and Greece.
According to the Jerusalem Post, Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin’s office confirmed on Tuesday that his country has been holding discussions with Cyprus and Greece over a “safe zone for tourism” between the three countries.
Last month, the Hellenic Association of Travel & Tourist Agencies (HATTA) and the Association of Cyprus Travel Agents (ACTA) agreed to submit a joint proposal to the governments of both countries for Cyprus and Greece to be considered a single area for tourism purposes.
But the initiative dubbed by its sponsors in Greece and Cyprus as the “tourist dogma” would not go into effect until the middle of the summer or possibly later, depending on the measured success currently seen in the two countries against the spread of the Covid-19 disease.
Israel, along with Cyprus and Greece, are faring well following their respective peaks of the coronavirus pandemic, with confirmed cases and infection rates currently remaining very low.
On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled a gradual opening of civil aviation provided the positive trend were to continue.
Whether creating an Israel-Greece-Cyprus tourism zone is doable amid the pandemic will largely depend on the idea that people want to avoid faraway destinations this summer
“We want to connect Israel to the world, but not to [infected] hotspots,” Netanyahu said.
Media reports suggest the discussions are in very early stages, with Israel still looking into whether such a safe zone would be possible.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Israel had joined an initiative spearheaded by Austria, according to which a number of countries would open their borders to each other in the near future to boost tourism.
These countries reportedly included Greece, New Zealand, Australia, Austria, Israel, Denmark and the Czech Republic, while any country joining the safe zone would first need to have successfully managed to contain the spread of COVID-19.
On Tuesday, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias spoke with his Israeli counterpart, Israel Katz about “the improving coronavirus situation in our countries and continued economic cooperation,” according to the latter’s Twitter account.
But mandatory quarantines for overseas travelers remain one of the biggest obstacles in creating a safe zone for tourism between the three countries.
Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theocharis told the Hellenic parliament this week that his ministry took a number of initiatives, including efforts to gain voice within the European Commission as well as building alliances with other countries.
“These alliances will be invaluable for the next day so that we can be able to develop and open borders, which is something that has to be done,” Theocharis said.
The minister told parliament that his staff were carrying out “much needed diplomatic efforts” in order to open borders as soon as possible.
“The Greek tourism industry is ready to welcome visitors. But if the German government, the Russian, Israeli, the US administration, quarantine those who are returning from our country, then no tourist will ever visit,” Theocharis said.
Israel requires two weeks of isolation after foreign travel to any country, while Greece and Cyprus have open borders with EU states through the Schengen Area, where member states have essentially abolished passport and border controls.
An Israeli foreign ministry source said discussions with were still in the very early stages, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Whether creating an Israel-Greece-Cyprus tourism zone is doable amid the pandemic, media pundits say this will largely depend not only on maintaining high public health standards but also the idea that people could be less likely to choose faraway travel destinations in the coming months.