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Although the summer sees a natural rise in travel, Israeli's may have an added reason to take to the skies this year - the dollar.
"The dollar is at its lowest levels in 13 months," said Eti Gvili, chief executive officer of tour operator Issta Lines said. "Air passengers can take advantage of the drop since most flights and holiday packages are quoted in dollars."
Gvili noted that Issta branches have seen an upsurge in passengers arriving to pay for their summer holiday packages and take advantage of the lower rate of exchange.
"The dollar has dropped 6 percent in real terms from last summer and that translates into a saving of thousands of shekels for families traveling together," Gvili said.
Meanwhile, in light of an Israeli traveler recently being caught with fake dollars in Turkey and the widespread emergence of the fake currency coming out of Israel, data supplied by Balmot, a developer of systems that detect fake notes, showed a significant increase in requests for its systems from money changing places. The rise in demand results from increased suspicions from the public for forged money, the company said.
Hot Turkey this summer
Turkey continues to be a favorite haunt for Israelis. The Israel Airports Authority said 228,039 passengers passed through the airport on flights to and from Turkey in July and August last year, and all indications show that figure will be surpassed this year. As such, travel Web site Gulliver.com has included a special map of family clubs in Antalya, Marmaris and Bodrum on its Web site, to give subscribers greater options in their travel plans.
Some of the deals on offer this week include Rimon Tours' family packages to Verona, Italy, which include flight, six nights in a 3-star accommodation and car rental for $739 per person. Rimon is also offering 16 nights in Thailand for $1,799 per person with flight (including taxes), hotel accommodation (bed and breakfast), ground services and guided tours on buses. The deal is on offer to fly out of Tel Aviv on July 26 only.
Holiday Tours, together with French charter airline Corsair, is offering roundtrip flights to Paris for $349 to leave and return on select dates next month.
Israir, meanwhile, said this week it will renew its flights to Bangkok starting July 7, leaving Tel Aviv every Friday at noon and returning on Saturdays at 2:30 p.m. on its same Boeing wide body ER 767-300, which holds 242 tourist class passengers and 18 in business class. The airline is offering the flights from $799 per person and has a 7-night package in a 4-star hotel on offer for $899.
Feeling at home
A recent survey conducted by tour operator Issta Lines showed that 28.5% of the 500 people questioned said they most looked for a hotel room with homelike qualities. Other priorities Israelis consider in their hotel accommodation when planning a vacation, over and above the obvious price and services considerations, cleanliness of the hotel room came up second best with 25.4% of the respondents listing it as the most important factor. For 13.6%, food was the most important factor and 12.4% looked at children's activities, while 7.4% strongly considered the pool area in their decision and 7.2% named the hotel's fitness center.
Sheraton focuses on film
Those with kids' entertainment high on their priority list may be pleased to know that Sheraton Israel Hotels has teamed up with movie production house Golan Globus and The Children's Channel to offer special activities this summer around the "cinema" theme at its hotels. The highlight will give the kids an opportunity to audition to host a "Special Film Day" on The Children's Channel and they will receive coaching to prepare for this.
Dan Acadia makes the upgrade
Continuing the wave of upgrades seen at the country's hotels, the Dan Hotel Group presented the NIS 14 million improvements it carried out at its flagship hotel - the Dan Acadia in Herzliya.
The upgrade, which took five months to complete, saw each of the 42 chalet units in section 61 of the hotel increase in size by 35 to 40 square meters. Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, the ground floor units come equipped with a jacuzzi on a plot of grass opposite the rooms, while some other improvements include equipping the rooms with a King-size bed, night table and a large sofa and arm chair in the lounge section. Located on 45 dunams of land, the Dan Acadia has a total of 207 rooms made up of 40 standard, 68 deluxe rooms, 11 suites, 44 garden and 44 first floor chalet rooms.
A spokesman for the chain said the hotel was in discussions to build an extra wing on the available land on the property.
New director general at Tourism Ministry
Finally, Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog made two key appointments at the ministry this week naming Nahum Itzkovitch as its new director general, and Oren Dror as his deputy. Itzkovich, who will replace Eli Cohen at the beginning of August, served as head of the Emek Hefer regional council over the last three terms of office there.