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A recent study conducted by Google Israel with data communications company TNS showed that 80 percent of Internet searches conducted by Israelis are for tourism-related topics.
Google reported that tourism is the most commonly searched subject among Israelis and that the trend extended to users abroad who increasingly were using the Web to find information about vacations in Israel and making their bookings through the net. Tourism even out-searched electrical products for which 76% of Israeli surfers were hunting.
Google said the global Internet tourism market had sales of approximately $116 billion in 2005 while the US market grew around 24% last year to $65b. Asian bookings rose 49% to $15.9b. and were expected to reach $25.6b. by the end of 2007.
The survey was conducted in preparation for a conference in Tel Aviv on October 31 to brainstorm ways to best use the Internet to promote tourism to Israel. The conference is being organized by the Israel Hotels Association, the Israel Incoming Tour Operators Association and Skal International in partnership with Google Israel, and will be addressed by Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog.
Mixed September for B-G
The Israel Airports Authority reported that 739,802 international passengers passed through Ben-Gurion airport in September, down 11 percent from the 829,667 in the parallel month of 2005. So far this year, 6,823,887 travelers have either taken off or landed at the airport. The total number reached in 2005 was 8,506,633. Domestic travel also took a nose dive in September dropping 20% to 32,310 for the month.
IAA figures showed that the number of aircraft operating the Tel Aviv route increased by 3.9% to 5,825 this September compared to last. Among the airlines, El Al carried 38.6% of the total traffic, or 285,419 passengers, followed by Israir with a 4.2% share, or 30,845 travelers. They were followed by Lufthansa with 3.9%, Arkia Israel Airlines at 3.8% and Continental Airlines with 3.5% of the traffic. The IAA said the amount of cargo handled at the airport rose 12% to 26.8 million kilograms.
Japanese boost for tourism
A delegation of 250 workers from Japanese cosmetics and health products company Nikken Corp. arrived in Israel this week as part of a travel incentive the company has initiated to the country. During the visit, which included meetings with Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog and El Al CEO Haim Romano, Nikken president Mori Nobuo committed to bringing 250 of the company's workers to Israel every October until 2010.
The meetings also discussed increasing flights between the two countries as a means of increasing tourism. A spokesperson said the tourism ministry is looking into the possibility of starting direct flights from Japan to Eilat.
Skiing into winter
With winter approaching, a number of companies are focusing on alternative options to capture the Israeli market. Among these, Shelli Tours has presented its family ski vacation packages equipped with Hebrew guides.
The hotels on offer, the tour operator said, are suitable for families and have ski and snowboarding instructions for kids from age four. The packages are at various hotels in Austria and Italy through January at prices starting at â‚¬1,300 per person, including flight, half board accommodation, a ski pass and ski instructions.
Also sloping into the ski market, El Al's charter subsidiary Sun Dor said it would operate five flights per week to four ski destinations in Europe through the winter.
Spurt in travel to China
Meanwhile, Tour Operator Tzabar Tours and Holidays said it expects China to be the new trend destination this winter.
The company forecast a growth of between 20% and 30% in bookings to China in November-December. "All indications are that China may become the next New York for Israelis," said Eli Dassa, manager of the overseas department at Tzabar.
Tzabar is offering organized tours to China for seven nights on various dates in November and December for $997, excluding local airport tax of $10 to be paid in China and the entrance visa to be acquired before the flight, which costs $50.
El Al presented its "Weekend" packages for the winter. offering two and three night deals to various destinations in Europe, including Budapest for $439 including flights, three nights accommodation and a trip to the opera house. Other weekend specials include two nights in London for $499, Paris for $499 and Madrid for $439 and three nights in Barcelona for $439. Prices include taxes and accommodation on a bed and breakfast basis.
Lufthansa is offering flights to various destinations in Europe for $399 including taxes for bookings made before October 30. The deal is for travel between November 5 and January 31, 2007, for a maximum 21 days and includes flights from Tel Aviv to Frankfurt, Munich, Berlin, Brussels, Barcelona, Budapest, Madrid, Paris, Milan, Amsterdam and Prague. Lufthansa is also offering early bird specials to the US for the same travel and booking periods.
These include to New York for $794, Washington for $844 and Atlanta for $944.