Escorted tours are expected to be the first leisure tourism sector to bounce back in Israel, the director of the government’s UK tourism office believes.

Sharon Ehrlich Bershadsky said she hopes the country, which has been closed to tourism since the first coronavirus outbreak, will be able to receive international travellers again by the end of the first quarter of 2021.

Speaking to Travel Weekly during this year’s virtual World Travel Market, she said escorted tours would be the first sector of tourism to return in the leisure space, following the return of business travel, “because it will be easier to control and to know where the group is going.”

DMCs are involved with escorted tours, she pointed out, so it’s possible to know the travellers’ itineraries. “It will be easier to experiment with this kind of travel without exposing the local community to anything that might put anyone in danger,” she said.

Although Israel has remained closed to international travellers since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, selected airlines have been running flights for those exempt from the rules.

“Maybe we’re a bit behind other countries, but some countries opened and then very quickly sometimes they closed,” Bershadsky said.

“Israel didn’t want to follow that. When we are open, we’ll be open. That’s the goal here, to open when you are feeling safe and more secure and more confident.”

Looking ahead to 2021, Bershadsky expects outdoor adventures and experiences will be at the forefront of travellers’ minds.

“[Israel] has an advantage because of the great weather, you can plan more outside,” she said.