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(photo credit: Courtesy Tourism Ministry)
A record number of Israelis will be traveling to Germany for the World Cup this weekend despite Israel not participating in the tournament.
Tour operator Issta Lines said approximately 7,000 locals will make the trip to Germany to see their favorite teams in action, which according to match bookings are Brazil, England and Holland.
"The high number of Israelis going to the World Cup is a result of it being relatively close to home this year, especially since the next two tournaments are being held in further destinations - South Africa in 2010 and South America four years later." said Ronen Karso, vice president marketing at Issta. "Their next opportunity to go to a World Cup in Europe will only come in 12 years."
In comparison, he noted that 5,000 Israelis went to the Athens Olympics, while 9,000 traveled to Prague to show their support for Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Final Four.
Karso estimated that if Israel had qualified for the World Cup, more than 20,000 local fans would have joined the team in Germany.
Diesenhaus tops tourism rankings
Closer to home, against a backdrop of a 26 percent rise in incoming tourism last year, Diesenhaus Unitours led the list of local tour operators taking advantage of the surge in foreign visitors.
Diesenhaus, an IDB Group company, had revenues of NIS 1 billion with 530 employees in 2005, making it the largest company on research company Business Data Israel's (BDI) tourism services rankings released Wednesday.
The top 10 showed little change from 2004 as Diesenhaus was again followed by Natour, which had revenues of NIS 850 million and 240 workers for the year. The same three companies as 2004 completed the top five, as Flying Carpet had NIS 700m. in revenues, Issta Lines had NIS 490m. and Aviation Links had NIS 380m.
Egged Tours and Recreation, in ninth place, was the only new entry to the top 10 with NIS 155m. in revenues moving Inbar Vacation & Tourism from ninth to 11th place.
BDI said revenues from tourism-related businesses reached $1.8b. in 2005 and confirmed Tourism Ministry figures of 1.9 million tourist arrivals for the year.
From Rome to Jerusalem
Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog met with the Governor of the Lazio District in Italy, Piero Maarrazzo, on Wednesday to initiate a strategic marketing partnership between Rome and Jerusalem.
The meeting was aimed at increasing the exchange of tourists between the two countries and the two agreed to use the European Maccabi Games, taking place in Rome next year, as a platform to strengthen tourism and social ties between Israel and Italy.
The ministry said Maarrazzo, who is also responsible for tourism-related matters in Italy, requested the meeting to initiate the partnership. Herzog said he hopes to grow the annual number of Italian tourists in Israel to 100,000 from its current level of 30,000.
Summer specials take shape
With the summer in full swing, airlines flying the Tel Aviv route have presented some interesting offers to win their share of the high season traffic.
British Airways is offering a package to Scotland, including return flights in its World Traveler tourist class to Edinburgh (via London) and a seven-day car rental, for $965 (including taxes). The offer stands until the end of October and only applies when booking for two. BA is also offering its business class Club World clientele an upgrade to first class on one of the legs of a return flight to London, for a ticket purchased for $2,431. The deal is available for flights leaving before September 10.
Lufthansa, meanwhile, is giving a $50 reduction for tickets to Europe and the US purchased with a MasterCard credit card. The offer is available for bookings made before July 15 on flights in July and August.
Tour operator Diesenhaus Unitours is offering a round-trip flight to Madrid for $299 on Air Madrid for a minimum seven-day stay, or $399 for a package including car rental. The offer stands for flights out of Tel Aviv before June 30.
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