1/3 of post-army trekkers use Arab airlines to get overseas

Cost is also the main reason the backpackers choose to fly with Arab airlines, which are generally 30% cheaper than European or Israeli carriers.

By RON FRIEDMAN
November 4, 2010 04:05
2 minute read.
Illustrative Photo: Qatar Airways passenger plane

Qatar Airways Plane 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

According to figures compiled by Israeli travel company Issta, which specializes in the youth and student market, a third of Israeli backpackers use Arab airlines when flying to their post-army trips to the Far East, South America, Africa and Oceania.

Every year some 40,000 young people embark on the long-term trips, which have become something of a right of passage for many Israelis upon completing their military service.

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October and November are the months when the largest number of young travelers pack their backpacks, lace their hiking boots and head off for exotic destinations, due to both the army’s discharge cycles and the favorable travel weather in the destination countries.

According to Ronen Karso, Issta’s deputy director in charge of marketing, the average backpacker is aged 20-24 and his or her trips range from four months to a year.

Roughly 60 percent of Israeli backpackers fly to the Far East, 30% to Central and South America and 10% to Australia, New Zealand and Africa. Karso said that for many the post-discharge trip is a once-ina- lifetime opportunity that they spend several months preparing for, saving money and plotting out their travel route.

According to Karso, those who manage to save more money tend to travel to South America, where travel expenses are higher.

Cost is also the main reason that the backpackers choose to fly with Arab airlines, which, Karso said, are generally 30% cheaper than European or Israeli carriers.

A majority of those who fly with Arab airlines fly with Royal Jordanian Airlines, while others fly with Qatar Airways via Doha and Ehitad Airways via Abu Dhabi.

Karso said that following the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai last year, Israelis stopped flying with Emirate Airlines.

The average trip to South America begins in Argentina, Chile or Peru and continues on to Bolivia and Colombia, with the aim of reaching Brazil by February in time for the annual carnival. After Brazil the travelers usually continue to Costa Rica, Guatemala and Mexico. Others prefer to begin their trip in the United States, where they work and save money for a few months before heading south.

A typical trip to the Far East includes travel through Thailand, Nepal and India, with the more adventurous electing to go to countries like Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Many young people begin their trip working for a while in Australia and New Zealand and then embark on their oriental adventure. Others go to Japan first, to earn money for the trip.

The 10 most popular backpacking destinations according to Issta are: Thailand, India, Brazil, Nepal, Peru, Mexico, Australia, China, Cuba and Argentina.


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