The tourism industry has naturally turned its attention to Succot where it expects to find its first sign of recovery from the war-induced quiet that lasted pretty much through September.
While preliminary figures represent a marked improvement from the last three months, they are still far from resembling the success of the 2005 Succot holiday period when hotels countrywide enjoyed occupancies of, on average, between 80 and 100 percent. This year, the Israel Hotels Association said the highest occupancy over the seven-day festival is forecast to be at the Dead Sea hotels, which are expecting to be 90% full. Jerusalem and Eilat hotels are expecting approximately 70% occupancy each while those in Haifa between 60% and 70%. Tiberias hotels, the IHA said, are expecting 40%-50% occupancies, while those in Netanya are looking at 50%-60% and in Tel Aviv 50%.
Plenty to do
While the figures may not indicate as strong a showing as hoped for, there is no shortage of things to do for those planning to make the trip.
The Hotels Association of Tiberias has joined forces with the town's municipality to arrange various activities during the Succot period. On each day of the festival, the town will host a "happening" that will include entertainment shows, workshops, guided tours, jugglers and magicians, ancient healing workshops and antique and art markets.
Construction company Heftsiba Ltd. is also presenting its "family happening" as part of its Project Beaches (Hofim) along the coast line between Michmoret and Caesaria over Succot. The event will offer a host of entertainment including various inflatable structures, rock climbing wall and a children's jamboree and will operate between 10:00 am and 5:00 pm on weekdays and until 2:00 pm on Friday at a cost of NIS 20 per car or family for entrance.
As part of the general drive to encourage tourism in the North this season, the Jewish Agency has opened its nature sites in the North to the public for free over Hol Hamoed.
The agency noted that the free entrance was made possible by donations from Jewish communities around the world raised through the Keren Hayesod and includes entrance to over 20 national and nature conservation parks operated by the Keren Kayemet. The deal runs Sunday through Friday and is available during the parks' operating hours 8:00 to 5:00 on weekdays and until 4:00 pm on Friday.
Israelis travel on weak dollar
Meanwhile, with Succot traditionally a popular time for Israelis to travel, they have been given added incentive this year as the shekel continues to appreciate against the dollar.
Zvika Karpel, general manager of Hebrew travel Web site www.gulliver.com, said the site has had a spike in requests for holiday packages to the US as travelers seek to take advantage of the low dollar.
"The weak dollar has increased the number of advanced bookings being made for the coming months," he said. "It is very attractive for travelers to take advantage of the opportunity presented and plan their vacations fixed at the current exchange rate."
European bookings on the rise
Tour operator Shelly Tours reported a 15% rise in bookings to "classical Europe" for the period.
Shelly Tours CEO Yaacov Lev Ari said bookings to Europe over Succot had started earlier than expected and the proportion of the total was higher than it had been during the rest of the summer. Among the more popular destinations he listed were France, Germany, Holland, Denmark and Belgium.
Gulliver's Karpel added that some 95% of flights to Europe during Succot were full.
Eilat Terminal renovated
With Eilat expected to grow as a tourist destination for reciprocal European visitors, the city's airport has undergone an overhaul as more incoming direct flights operate from the continent.
The Israel Airports Authority said the cost of the renovations at the airport amounted to NIS 6 million and included an upgrade and expansion of its passenger terminals and waiting area for planes to take off.
Now, passengers can enjoy a larger arrivals hall and a new combined departure terminal after Israir and Arkia had previously operated from separate halls.
The IAA said it has invested up to NIS 10m. in different projects to upgrade the airport over the last 10 years.
Daniel Hotel ready for business
Also sporting a new look, the Daniel business hotel in Herzliya recently completed a $4.5m. face lift.
The renovations were carried out in stages over the last four years with the goal of being fashioned in accordance with the character of new business hotels around the world.
The 200-room hotel, located on the beach front in Herzliya Pituah, is part of the Tameres group which initiated the renovations based on its research of the needs of business clientele and global trends in the market.