Solitary guides leading tours in empty museums: Jerusalem’s new tourism plan
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Solitary guides leading tours in empty museums: Jerusalem’s new tourism plan

Capital hopes thousands of would-be visitors who can’t fly to Israel because of the coronavirus will sign up for virtual visits, on the streets and in the halls of culture

The Israel Museum in Jerusalem, on November 5, 2018 (Mendy Hechtman/Flash90)
The Israel Museum in Jerusalem, on November 5, 2018 (Mendy Hechtman/Flash90)

With Jerusalem’s tourist scene decimated just before Passover and Easter, its tourist chiefs are launching an online platform to give people a “virtual” experience in the city.

Museum staff will run trips inside empty museums, accompanied by cameras instead of tour groups, and guides will do the same on the city’s streets.

Jerusalem’s tourist authority hopes that thousands of would-be tourists who can’t fly to Israel because of the coronavirus will sign up for the tours, along with thousands of others.

Ilanit Melchior, director of tourism for the Jerusalem Development Authority, told The Times of Israel that the online platform will be live in 10 days, and will prove an important asset when the coronavirus crisis is over and Jerusalem is rebuilding its tourism sector.

A tourist wears a face mask for protection from the coronavirus as he visits the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, February 27, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

“Recovery will come; it’s just a matter of time,” she said. “And it’s about keeping Jerusalem in people’s minds and hearts until that time comes.”

Melchior said that the portal will simulate as many Jerusalem experiences as possible, including a section, branded as an online “Western Wall,” where people will be encouraged to compose prayers that they would offer if they could visit Jerusalem.

Ilanit Melchior, director of tourism for the Jerusalem Development Authority (courtesy)

She said that some tours will be free, while others will entail a fee to pay tour guides, whose work has dried up as a result of the crisis. There will be a wide range of tours in various languages, to appeal to the gamut of tourists who normally visit Jerusalem.

“You’ll be able to ‘visit’ the Via Dolorosa with a German-language tour, see the Armenian Quarter and hear about it, and explore lots of other options,” said Melchior.

She said that the platform will be used to offer vouchers and other deals to get tourists booking again, and to jump-start the city’s tourism.

“We’re aiming at a platform that is very flexible, and which changes as the challenge changes,” Melchior added.

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