travel trends 88.
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World tourism is expected to grow by 4 percent in 2007 marking the fourth year of sustained growth, the UN World Tourism Organization reported.
UNWTO secretary general Francesco Frangialli presented Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog with the organization's findings during their meeting at the World Travel Market in London last week.
"Despite global terrorism and tsunamis, tourism continues to rise," Frangialli told Herzog.
The report shows that in the first eight months of 2006, international tourist arrivals totaled 578 million, some 4.5% higher than the parallel period in 2005. Last year was a record year for tourism as 806 million people traveled between countries, UNWTO said.
Global tourism grew 15.5% between 2003 and 2005 and the organization forecasts a 4.1% annual growth rate through 2020.
The report noted that the month-long war between Israel and Hizbullah "had only very limited impact on the growth pace of the [Middle East] region as a whole."
"Although it has taken its toll on tourism demand for some destinations, past experience suggests that consumer confidence can recover quickly," the report said. "The Middle East has many times proven its capacity for recovery."
UNWTO forecasts indicate that international arrivals to the region should grow 7.2% in 2006 outpacing the world average.
Africa showed the fastest growth for 2006, expected to rise 10.6%, led mostly by Sub-Saharan Africa with 12.6% growth pulled by South Africa, Kenya, Mozambique, Swaziland and the Seychelles, the report said.
Asia and the Pacific was the second fastest growing region, up 8.3% in the first eight months of the year, followed by the Middle East (7.2%), Europe (3.1%) and the Americas (2.5%). Tourist arrivals in the US grew 4.3% offsetting the 4.1% decline in Canada, which made North America among the weakest regions.
Israeli tourism woos the US
Meanwhile, the Israeli tourism industry took to the US this week in an effort to bring about an increase in travel from that country.
With most of the week's activities centered around the General Assembly of the United Jewish Communities, Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog received commitments from leading businessmen and policy makers to encourage tourism to Israel.
Among these, Herzog signed an agreement with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to advance tourism between the two regions.
The California deal followed a pledge by the Hilton Hotel chain to invest in the Israeli hotel industry. Stephen Bollenbach, Co-Chairman and CEO of the Hilton Group, accepted Herzog's invitation to visit Israel at the beginning of 2007 as part of a delegation from the chain to meet local developers and hoteliers.
Participating in the GA for the first time, representatives from German airline Lufthansa's Israel office made the trip to Los Angeles aiming to boost its traffic from the US to Israel.
The Lufthansa delegation was led by Uri Amiram, who was appointed in 2005 to the position of special manager to encourage tourism to Israel at the airline, spear-heading Lufthansa's marketing around the world to spur Jewish communities to travel to Israel. El Al also participated in the GA as a session sponsor.
Travel to Sinai continues to crumble
Once a hub of travel activity, fewer Israelis and tourists are making the trip into the Sinai as evidenced by traffic through the Taba border, which has taken a dramatic turn over the last two years, the Israel Airports Authority said.
The IAA reported that just 582,798 tourists passed through the Taba border between the Sinai and Eilat, in the first 10 months of the year, some 17% fewer than the 701,919 of the parallel period last year and 38% less than the 947,529 of 2004.
Some 356,055 Israelis traveled through the crossing between January and October and 226,743 tourists. The IAA said it expects a slight increase in traffic towards year-end. Around 700,000 people were expected to have passed through by then, showing a 10.7% decrease from last year.
A series of terror attacks in the Sinai brought a slowdown in tourism to the region, especially among Israeli travelers who traditionally would flock there over the Passover and Succot festivals.
BA, Air France launch new seats
British Airways this week unveiled its "next generation" business class flat-bed to be installed in its fleet of 57 Boeing 747 and 43 Boeing 777 aircraft at an investment of 100 million.
The investment is part of a program BA initiated that includes enhancements to its first-class cabin and the introduction of an on-demand, inflight entertainment system in every cabin across the long haul fleet.
Some of the features in the new cabin include the six-foot long flat-bed, which is 25% wider than its current bed; a laptop locker; an enhanced inflight entertainment system that allows customers to pause, stop, fast-forward or rewind up to 100 films and TV programs and play games on larger 10-inch digital screens; and an onboard kitchen at passengers' disposal. The airline said rollout of the new Club World cabins would take up to 18 months to complete and that the first aircraft will be in service at the end of the month.
Similarly, Air France has installed new seats for business passengers travelling long-haul flights in its Espace Affaires cabin.
The new seats extend to a two-meter length and recline to a near flat position - five degrees from being fully horizontal. Other features include a wider folding table and a step to access overhead baggage compartments more easily.
The first Air France aircraft equipped with the seats were its Boeing 777-200, launched at the beginning of November and the airline expects to have a quarter of its long-haul fleet equipped with the seats by May 2007.
Doctors on call?
Lufthansa is offering doctors a 5,000 mile bonus on its Mile & More frequent flier program to fly with them on Tel Aviv flights as it seeks to increase its presence of medical professionals on board.
The airline said that around 80% of its flights have a doctor on board, which can help in the event of a medical emergency.
"The company is establishing a reserve of doctors that can provide aid on the flights without making the passengers feel uncomfortable," said Ofer Kisch, Israel country manager.