travel beach 88.
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With the war in the North over, the Tourism industry is looking to the chagim to offer some consolation for the lack of business brought on by the summer fighting. It is giving mixed signals, however, over what is expected.
The hotels, which rely heavily on the foreign tourist market over the Jewish Holidays, said earlier this week it expects the quiet to continue into September and October as it has received a slow stream of new bookings since the cease-fire went into effect two weeks ago. The airlines, on the other hand, reported a more positive outlook as activity almost immediately picked up, albeit many said the boost came from Israelis traveling again.
Indeed, it's the local market that tourism businesses will be looking to over the chagim as Israelis take the opportunity to vacation after losing much of the summer period to the war.
Travel Web site Roim Olam, which works to promote nature-focused travel abroad, said it expects a 20 percent rise in cultural and nature travel over the Jewish Holiday period, compared to the chagim last year.
Christian market wary
One of the main concerns has been the recovery in the Christian market after the war, particularly extending to the winter months when many Europeans choose Israel as an attractive warmer travel alternative.
Raphael Farber, chairman of the Olive Tree Hotels, which cater to the Christian market in Jerusalem and Tiberias, said earlier this week that he expects a 50% drop in bookings from the Christian market over the next two months, compared to last year.
Brussels airlines, meanwhile, said the European Evangelical community would still be making its annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Succot this year, despite the events of the last month.
"With the outbreak of the fighting in the North, registrations [from Evangelicals] halved," said Roby Herskowicz, Israel country manager for Brussels Airlines. "But the recovery now has been very quick."
Travel while the dollar's down
One factor in the tourism industry's favor has been the recent weakening of the dollar.
Itzik Penso, vice president of marketing at Diesenhaus Unitours, said the tourism industry stands to benefit from the sharp decrease in the dollar against the shekel. Since the day after the war broke out, when the shekel plunged close to 4% in one day to NIS 4.55, the currency has moved back to its pre-war level of around NIS 4.38.
This bodes well for travelers, Penso said, who are quoted in dollars for their air tickets and travel packages abroad.
Diesenhaus expands operation
Diesenhaus Unitours, meanwhile, said it is expanding its operations and has opened a new branch in the Bnei Brak - Ramat Gan industrial area to serve the business and private market in the area. The new branch, Diesenhaus' 58th in Israel, will be run in partnership with Express Tours. Diesenhaus said it plans to open more branches before the end of the year.
The company also launched a new Web site www.d-u.co.il to give information for travel in Israel and abroad.
Chinese Circus comes to town
Finally, the Patel Hotel Chain said it is hosting a Chinese circus at its hotels around the country. The five-member troupe will present its 45-minute show featuring the art of Kung Fu, acrobatics and stunts.
The circus will perform over 400 shows through its stay in the country (expected till the end of the year), traveling between Patel hotels in Eilat, the Dead Sea, Haifa and
Entrance to the act will be free for guests of the hotel.
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