NEW YORK -- Although suppliers don't expect to see a deluge of
tourism to the Holy Land any time soon, they are doing their best
to promote travel to Israel despite the ongoing turmoil in the
And while the State Department's warning earlier this month
won't help on the tourism front, many in the trade are determined
to get the word out that Israel's open for business.
One example of such efforts is Isram World of Travel here, which
still published 300,000 copies of its Israel Book of Travel
brochure, with prices available through March 2003.
Isram sent 35,000 passengers to Israel on packages in 2000.
During those more peaceful times, Israel and the Middle East
accounted for 48% of the company's business; so far this year, the
region accounts for only 12% to 15%, according to Ady Gelber,
president and chief executive officer.
The 80-page brochure's content was not influenced by recent
events, Gelber said. "We have not changed any of our land
offerings, only Bethlehem, which we now list as 'conditions
Isram is paying 17% commission on all its weekly escorted tours
to Israel this year, he said.
Dan Hotels is a chain of a dozen properties in Israel, including
the country's only two Leading Hotels of the World members, the
King David Jerusalem and Dan Tel Aviv.
Gabi Mor, director of marketing and sales for North America at
Israel Hotel Representatives here, which represents Dan Hotels,
said all 12 hotels and their room inventories remain open.
To retain business in the present climate, the chain has been
promoting discount rates and advertising in the Jewish media, with
some success during the recent Passover holiday.
Because of the escalating violence in the weeks leading to
Passover, Mor said, "there were many last-moment cancellations,"
resulting in a 15% decline in chain-wide business for the holiday
from last year.
On the bright side, he said, Dan Hotels saw "an enormous
increase in reservations to the Dan Eilat and Dan Panorama Eilat,"
resorts located on the Red Sea at Israel's southern tip between
Egypt and Jordan.
The Dan Eilat saw a 10% increase in business from North America
The Mediterranean resort properties Dan Accadia and Dan
Caesarea, located nine and 32 miles north of Tel Aviv,
respectively, also received "more reservations than usual" for the
holiday, Mor said.
In contrast to its hotels in Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, which
ran at 55% to 60% occupancy during Passover week, he said, the
Eilat properties ran at almost 90%; Caesarea and Acadia at about
70%. "Those are perceived as safer areas," Mor said.
Eilat is a popular destination with Israelis, Europeans and U.S.
travelers alike, who sometimes visit as an extension to their tours
of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the northern region, Mor said.
However, even during the ongoing crisis, he noted, the King
David in Jerusalem and the Dan Tel Aviv are the strongest with the
U.S. market. Rates at those flagship properties are 50% off what
they would be in a peaceful year, Mor said.
Meanwhile, El Al, Israel's national carrier, is discounting
fares to Israel by 33% through June 30, with roundtrip fares of
$769 between Tel Aviv and New York (Kennedy or Newark).
Through June 20, the airline also introduced air-land packages
including a choice of five nights' accommodations at the Prima, Dan
Panorama or Crowne Plaza hotels, priced from $999, or seven days'
car rental with unlimited mileage, priced from $899. Commission on
El Al's land-air packages is 10%.
Ethnic clients and religious groups are staying the course.
"The ethnic market is a big part of our loyal customer base,"
said Michael Mayer, general manager, North America of El Al. "They
fly rain or shine. The pilgrimage customers, also. We try to keep
their loyalty as much as possible."
"There are people that still want to go to Jerusalem and Tel
Aviv for six to seven nights," Mor said, "as well as the religious
people and Americans who want to visit uncles and aunts in
The market most hurt by recent events, he added, are first-time
visitors and those who take escorted tours offered by
When peace returns, Mor said, the chain plans to expand its
portfolio with another Dan Gardens-brand property in Ashkelon, near
Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee.
He said he believed demand will return immediately upon a peace
agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
"It's like a roller coaster over the last 50 years. Declines in
tourism to Israel see sharp drops, and then demand from all markets
shoots up when the tide turns. We're just waiting for it."
"We remain strong and determined," Gelber said. "A lot of
suppliers in Israel rely on us -- our marketing and distribution --
and we believe that agents should have Israel products for when
[tourism] comes back."
State Dept. renews travel warning
NEW YORK -- The State Department renewed its December travel
warning for Israel earlier this month, urging U.S. travelers to
forego travel to the country.
"Americans are urged to review their personal security
situations and to take those actions they deem appropriate to
ensure their well-being, including consideration of departure from
these areas [Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank]," the new warning
A spokesman for the Israel Ministry of Tourism said the warning
is "no different than it was before. As far as we're concerned,
people are still going and we're encouraging people to come."
However, some language in the new warning has changed. For
example, regarding Jerusalem, the previous warning stated,
"American citizens should limit travel to the Old City of Jerusalem
to daylight hours, Saturday through Thursday."
The new warning says: "American citizens should be particularly
careful in Jerusalem, where frequent terrorist acts have occurred
and the potential for terrorist bombings remains high."
Ady Gelber, president and chief executive officer of Isram World
of Travel here, asked in response to the renewed warning, "What
else is new? We've been living with this for the past year and a
For more information, consult the State Department's Bureau of
Consular Affairs Web site at www.travel.state.gov.
Suppliers selling packages to Israel
El Al Israel Airlines
Phone: (800) 223-6700
Israel Hotel Representatives (Dan
Phone: (800) 223-7773
Isram World of Travel
Phone: (800) 223-7460