Zika fears may mean fewer Israeli travelers going to Olympics in Rio

A mix of Zika virus, high cost, long trip and lack of promotion have meant decreased desire to put down the dough for Rio.

July 11, 2016 01:00
1 minute read.
Tourists visit the Christ the Redeemer statue with Sugarloaf Mountain (R) in Rio de Janeiro

Tourists visit the Christ the Redeemer statue with Sugarloaf Mountain (R) in the distance in Rio de Janeiro. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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The Olympic Games are slated to begin in Rio de Janiero on August 5 but Israelis do not seem to be flocking to Brazil especially for the spectacle this time.

According to Mark Feldman, CEO of Ziontours, whose agency has not booked any trips to the Olympic games, the long travel distance, high cost and security concerns have lead to a lesser interest in making the trip.

Feldman noted that in past years, special travel packages were unveiled far in advance, while this year the same packages were only released in June. He also noted that the Israeli media has not promoted games or “star athletes” as much as usual.

These factors as well, he said, have resulted in a decreased desire to put down the dough for Rio.

Most Israelis who travel to South America, he said, are of the post-army trip kind that would not be up for paying for the high cost needed to attend the games anyway.

He said that when the games are held in easier-to-reach locales such as in Europe or the United States, there are much more people booking Olympic trip packages. The 2020 summer Olympics will take place in Tokyo.

Zika fears may have affected online trip buyers however. Ayal Segal, manager of the Israeli branch of Australian company Hotels Combined, reported that while he has seen an overall increase in bookings to Brazil for this summer, those numbers dropped off as news of the Zika virus have spread.

Both Feldman and Segal noted the importance of being able to cancel the trips if needed. Zion Tours offers travel insurance that allows cancellation “for any reason” up to seven hours before a flight, while Hotels Combined allows users to search for hotels specifically based on whether or not they offer full-refunds on cancellations.

Israeli passport holders do not require a visa to visit Brazil up to 90 days for tourism or business purposes.

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