Modern exodus – Pessah sees surge in tourism locally, abroad

Hotels across the country are nearly completely booked and flights are becoming hard to come by; European and Asian airlines fly direct this Pessah.

March 26, 2010 01:09
3 minute read.
The Jerusalem Post

masada tourism 311. (photo credit: Ahikam Seri/Bloomberg)


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Many Israelis will be taking advantage of Pessah to go on vacation.

Hotels across the country are nearly completely booked and flights are becoming hard to come by. All travelers are advised to be patient and expect delays once they hit the road.

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According to the Israel Hotel Association, hotels across the country are between 70 and 95 percent booked for the holiday.

In Eilat, 80% of available hotel rooms have been booked for the Seder evening and 90% for the intermediate days of the holiday. The Dead Sea hotels expect similar occupancy rates.

In Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, the numbers are slightly lower with 70-75% occupancy, while in Haifa and Tiberius, expected rates stand at 80-90%.

Kibbutz hotels and hostels are also expected to be nearly jam packed, with 95% of available rooms already reserved.

The high occupancy rates have driven hoteliers in Eilat and the Dead Sea to hire additional employees. Two job fairs held in Eilat in the past two weeks have enlisted 1,000 workers.


The main international destinations are the US, Italy, Turkey, Germany and France.

Eyal Shtark, marketing director of Aladdin Travel, a tourism agency that specializes in hotel and tour bookings, said that because in Israel the economic crisis passed relatively quickly and painlessly, more people were traveling to distant destinations than they did last year.

“Whereas in 2009 people who traveled tended to stay closer to home and visit nearby destinations in Europe, this year people are flying further afield,” said Shtark, noting the US, Canada and Thailand as the preferred distant destinations.

“Also because of the global economic crisis, many hotels are offering large discounts. You can find a four or five star hotel in a place like Las Vegas for less than $100 per room, whereas normally you’d pay nearly double that,” he said.

Shtark also said that because Pessah is early this year, many people booked their vacations earlier than normal.

“Usually January is a real slow season, but because Pessah fell in March, we were already busy making bookings,” he said. “Those who booked in advance proved smart because they enjoyed the best availability and the best prices.”

Some 550,000 passengers are scheduled to pass through Ben-Gurion Airport between March 25 and April 8. This represents a 19% increase over last year.

The number of flights also increased, by 13% over 2009 and by 3% over 2008, which was a record year.

Tourism to Turkey is once more on the rise after months of tension between the countries took their toll. About 17,000 Israelis visited Turkey in the first two months of 2010, a 20% increase from the same period a year earlier.

“I am very pleased that my Israeli friends have understood that they need to separate between politics and tourism and am pleased by the dramatic upturn,” said Rani Rahav, the newly hired public relations agent for the Turkish Ministry of Tourism. “I am full of hope that this trend will continue and we will all enjoy the charming hospitality of the Turkish people.”

April 8 is expected to be the busiest day at the airport, with 48,000 passengers passing through on 3,000 flights, with March 28 and April 4 following closely behind.

Israel Airport Authority CEO Kobi Mor said, “The IAA management and the workers at the airports and border crossings are preparing themselves for the increased traffic during Pessah. To provide the travelers with the best possible service, the authority will augment its workforce on the days when large volumes of passengers are expected.”

Five new airlines will begin flying in and out of Ben-Gurion this holiday. German Wings will make two flights a week to Cologne. Donbass Earo and Dnieproavia will begin regular flights to Ukraine. SAS Strategic Airlines will operate charter flights to France and Armavia will fly regularly to Armenia.

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