Escalating violence takes its toll on tourism

Number of hotels in Israel, West Bank see cancellations; heavy price of fighting exacted on airlines, waterways.

By REUTERS
November 18, 2012 18:05
3 minute read.
Israelis and tourists at Tel Aviv beach

Israelis and tourists at Tel Aviv beach 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Havakuk Levison)

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later Don't show it again

With violence in the Gaza Strip entering its fifth day and Palestinian rockets landing deeper into Israel than ever before, travelers who had hoped to visit the holy land are starting to think twice.



Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.


A number of hotels in Israel, along with flagship carrier El Al, have already seen some cancellations and believe the number will grow if the violence rages into a second week.

"The continued firing on the south ... is expected to exact a heavy price on the tourism industry which is one of the central anchors in the region," said Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov said on Sunday.

Israel unleashed its massive air campaign on Wednesday, killing Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari with the declared goal of deterring gunmen in the coastal enclave from launching rockets that have plagued its southern communities for years.

Since the start of the conflagration, hundreds of missiles have been launched into Israel, with several speeding towards the commercial hub of Tel Aviv, which had previously been out of range from Gazan militants.

Air raid sirens even sounded in Jerusalem on Friday for the first time in decades before a rocket landed nearby, in the occupied West Bank.



Three Israelis were killed by a direct hit on their apartment building in a small southern town on Thursday, but none of the longer-ranged salvoes struck populated areas or caused any injuries. However, the threat alone is taking a toll.

Click for full JPost coverage

It was still too soon to assess just how badly the tourism industry will be hurt, said the ministry, which has set up its own situation room to mitigate damages. There have already been a few registered cancellations and trips cut short, coming mostly from the region closest to Gaza.

A spokeswoman for Fattal, Israel's biggest hotel chain, said a few bookings have already been canceled. "We see the start of a trend, but only in a few days will we be able to see where the overall trend is headed," she said, declining to give numbers.

Likewise, Jerusalem's American Colony hotel reported that some clients had pulled out of visits at the last minute.

Staying home

An El Al spokeswoman said there have been a few cancellations "here and there" though nothing significant, while Delta and US Airways said some families of Israelis called up by the army had decided to stay home.

The slowdown was not limited to Israel. Tourism represents 12 percent of gross domestic product for the Palestinian Authority and it could bear the brunt of the damage, Israel's Tourism Ministry said. In comparison, tourism accounts for only 2-3 percent of Israel's GDP, the ministry noted.

The Palestinian West Bank city of Bethlehem, where the Church of the Nativity attracts Christian pilgrims from around the world, had lost nearly half its reservations due to the Gaza escalation.

"I think that the percentage of the cancellations has reached 40 to 50 percent until the end of November and for the next month," said Elias al-Arja, head of the Arab Association for hotels in the city.

The commercial skies and waterways have also been impacted.

Cruise ships meant to arrive in the southern port of Ashdod are now docking in Haifa. And flight patterns for flights to and from Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion International Airport have been shifted north to free up air space for Israel's air force operating in Gaza, said one official in the aviation industry.

Before the start of the Gaza campaign, Israel had been enjoying a record year for tourists, with 2.6 million visitors entering the country in the first nine months of the year - a new high and seven percent more than the same period last year.

Related Content

Supreme Court President Asher Grunis
August 28, 2014
Grapevine: September significance

By GREER FAY CASHMAN