2020 has been encapsulated so far by words such as ‘unprecedented’ and ‘the new normal’ in the wake of COVID-19. The negative impact of the virus has affected millions. And yet, there is hope to be found amongst the set-backs and the uncertainty. Today, the world will witness the ratification of the UAE-Israel normalization agreement, or the ‘Abraham Accord’, making the UAE the first Gulf country to do so. Signed in Washington DC, the agreement represents an historic step towards peace in the Middle East. It acts as a reminder that there are solutions to be found even for the world’s most fraught geopolitical challenges. The UAE-Israel Agreement will open up many opportunities for the two nations, from science and trade to tourism and hospitality.

Since the initial announcement between the two nations, made on 13th August 2020, several additional firsts have taken place. On 16th August 2020, the UAE established telephone links to Israel by unblocking direct dialling to Israel’s +972 country code. The first direct commercial flight from Israel to the UAE took place on 31st August 2020. There are also hints at more announcements from Gulf states to come, as Bahrain followed the UAE’s lead, joining the Peace Plan on 11th September 2020.

Travel may not be top of the list for many residents right now, but this agreement with Israel opens up exciting new horizons for Gulf residents. With Israeli travel previously being a challenge, ex-pat residents and Emiratis are understandably eager to explore the spiritual homeland of three of the world’s leading religions.

With flight times of just over three hours, holidaymakers will be able to add both destinations to their lists of short-haul holiday options. Many ancient historical wonders await in Jerusalem’s Old City such as the Temple of the Mount and Dome of the Rock, the Western Wall, Al Aqsa mosque and Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Further afield, hidden gems will draw Gulf tourists to the Red Canyon and Ein Avdat National Park. Topographically and culturally, this is an incredibly rich experience for tourists.

With no access to Israeli websites in GCC countries for so long, the majority of UAE travellers are just at the start of their journey. Yes, many will know the famous sites but will have less knowledge on which are the best hotels in Jerusalem, on the coast or deeper in the countryside to fulfil their travel plans and styles.

It’s an auspicious September. Travel may be reduced, but this agreement with Israel will undoubtedly change UAE residents’ travel plans soon.

We would be delighted to meet for a virtual coffee to explore ways we can help to build your brand amongst GCC audiences. Please do contact Jon Rivlin and Sophie Toh to discuss more.