Tourists cool off at Tel Aviv beach.
(photo credit: Niv Elis)
The clock on the wall ticks slowly. The office is quiet. Every email seems to
elicit an “on vacation” auto-reply, and phone calls go straight to
Where has everyone gone? The answer seems clear:
This August, Ben-Gurion Airport is on track to break records with
the number of monthly travelers passing through its gates. Although the final
count isn’t in, projections put the number through the end of the month at 1.15
million travelers, according to the Airports Authority.
however, does not distinguish between passengers whose round-trips originate in
Israel and those who began abroad. But Israelis taking a final break as the dog
days of August wear on seem to be pushing the trend forward.
Israeli travel agency, says it has seen 10-percent growth in the summer months
of July and August, though many of those trips were booked ahead of
“It wasn’t too hot a summer, that wasn’t why people left,” said
Ronen Karasso, Issta’s director of marketing.
A different possible
motivator: the exchange rate.
“The strong shekel is very helpful, because
the prices come down,” Karasso said.
While exporters may not like the shekel’s value against the
dollar dipping past a twoyear low, it certainly makes it easier for vacationers
to pay for plane tickets, whose prices have gone up some 15%, not to mention
hotel rooms, food and souvenirs abroad.
With the exchange rate down from
about NIS 4 to the dollar last August to NIS 3.57 now, an Israeli tourist taking
a $1,500 vacation would save NIS 645 on the exchange rate alone. That might
explain why more tourists headed to Europe rather than take a domestic
“This year people decided to go abroad at the expense of Eilat,”
Yet for all the emptiness in the offices and the working
world, the beaches of Tel Aviv remain flooded with tourists.
, 261,000 French tourists visit Israel each year, putting them second only
to Russians among European tourists, and their numbers are growing. On average,
French tourists spend $1,232 per visit to Israel.
Yet the economy may not
see the sort of boost from August tourism that one might expect, according to
Ami Etgar, head of the Israel Incoming Tour Operator Association.
most important months for tourism are May and October, when there are larger
numbers of tourists that come to see the whole country, stay at hotels and take
tours,” Etgar said.
Many of the summer vacationers have apartments along
the coast, and come for simple relaxation instead of sightseeing.
stay put mostly in Tel Aviv,” Etgar said.
In fact, there may even be an
economic downside to the sizzling summer. With all the revelers enjoying the
waves and the sunshine at the beach, and so many colleagues out on vacation,
workers may find the summer months less productive.
According to a
CareerBuilder survey, over a quarter of workers do.