Bahai News - Down but Not Out.(Tourism in Isreal)
Down but Not Out.(Tourism in Isreal)
Author/s: Frank Rosci Issue: April 16, 2001
Israel has experienced dips in tourism before but has come back
strong every time
While the unrest in Israel continues to have an unsettling impact on travel,
the country's tourism officials, and U.S. tour operators and travel agents
repeatedly point out that no tourists have been harmed, and they remain
optimistic that Israeli-Palestinian differences in the one-of-a-kind
destination will improve soon.
Encouraging signs include a recent pledge by Israeli and Palestinian tourism
ministers to promote regional tourism; the addition of new aircraft by El Al
Israel Airlines, the country's national carrier; and the reintroduction of
New York-Tel Aviv scheduled service by Delta Airlines planned for this June.
The Israel Ministry of Tourism is taking measures to correct misperceptions
among potential and actual travelers, and stabilize Israel's travel industry,
says Tsion Ben-David, director-North America for the ministry in Jerusalem.
With the task of attracting first-timers (critical since 48 percent of
Americans become repeat visitors) more daunting than ever, Ben-David says
key points in the ministry's efforts include sponsoring complimentary
"impression tours" for group-leading clergy, a come-see-for-yourself effort
that began in January and is resulting in new bookings. Another strategy is
offering deep discounts to tour operators. "We're doing all we can, because
we believe we have the best tourism product and the best destination," says
On other fronts, the ministry is still conducting the same number of
workshops for U.S. travel agents. Says Ben-David: "It is difficult to say
how long it will take for the situation to turn around, but it's beginning
to happen. We are very optimistic; our anthem is always hope."
Although bookings are down, tour groups from the U.S. continue to make the
trip. "Even with the slowdown we kept 60 percent of our bookings," notes
Oren Drori, director of market segments for the Israel Ministry of Tourism.
Katrin Nakar, spokeswoman for the Nof Ginosar hotel in the Sea of
Galilee region, says there are signs of a pickup in business. "At no time
has the situation with regard to the number of tourists coming to Israel
been desperate," she says. "They are coming--just not as many--and now we
are finally seeing more groups and good advance bookings."
Sandy Scott, senior travel consultant for Silver Valley Travel in Kellog,
Idaho, has traveled to Israel in good times and bad, and she says her
recent escorted program through Ya'lla Tours "was as smooth as glass."
Although the group of 18 Christians--all first-time visitors to Israel--was
"a harder sell and smaller than usual," Scott says her clients "were
thrilled to be in the Holy Land, and they discovered quickly that it was
To stimulate business, Ya'lla Tours has frozen rates until the end of
February 2002, and it is conducting a program for travel agents to
emphasize that Israel is safe, says Ronen Paldi, the company's president
and owner." are booking more Christian groups for after November and
beyond," he says.
Meanwhile, most of Israel's major tourism sites, including those along
the Mediterranean coast, and in the Galilee region and Jerusalem, are
open and accessible. Even Bethlehem, now under the jurisdiction of the
Palestinian Authority, may be visited, usually upon the request and
issuance of a travel permit. Among Israel's newest tourist attractions
is Nazareth Village in Nazareth. The fascinating site recreates life as
it was lived during Jesus' time, with biblical plants, people in costume
and a village that will eventually have 20 buildings. In the port city
of Haifa are the new Bahai Gardens, a network of 19 intricately planted,
meticulously landscaped terraces that stretch two-thirds of a mile up
Mount Carmel. By the shores of the Sea of Galilee, a sparkling addition
to the Yigal Allon Museum houses a 2,000-year-old boat discovered by two
brothers from Kibbutz Ginosar in 1986.
(Editor's Note: The
writer recently returned from a press trip sponsored by the Israel
Government Tourist Office.)
©Copyright 2001, Travel Agent
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