Hotel lodgings in October stayed at roughly the same level of 1.7 million as the same month last year as Israeli bookings dominated activity during the month. Some 1.2 million overnights stays were made by Israelis in October with the remaining 519,000, or 31 percent, coming from tourists. In the first six months of the year, before the war in Lebanon, foreign tourist bookings made up 44% of the total, the Central Bureau of Statistics said in its monthly report Wednesday. All regions in the country except Jerusalem showed growth in occupancy from year to year in October. Eilat and Dead Sea hotels showed the highest occupancy level of 72% for the month, rising from 66% in 2005, while hotels in the North kept the same 46% occupancy as last year. Those in Haifa rose from 43% to 48% and the Center moved up from 44% to 48% with Tel Aviv hotels growing from 47% last year to 56% this October. Jerusalem hotels, however, were just 48% occupied this year compared to 55% in October 2005. So far in 2006, 16.5 million overnight bookings have been made, representing growth of 2.7% over the parallel 10-month period in 2005. Israelis have made 10.6 million of the bookings, 1% more than last year, while tourist bookings have risen 5.5% to 5.9 million in the 10 months. B-G Airport November count down The Israel Airports Authority reported that the first three weeks of November saw 422,914 passengers pass through Ben-Gurion Airport, representing a 5.7% decline from the parallel period last year. Of the total, 209,508 landed at the airport and 213,406 left. The airport saw a 4.5% increase to 3,424 in the number of flights operating in the period. So far this year, approximately 8.1 million passengers have travelled through the airport, 3.2% more than last year. Google campaign gains momentum Six weeks into the Tourism Ministry's advertising campaign on search engine Google, the ministry said it has had approximately 94,000 hits on its Web sites linked to Israel-related search results. The ministry said over 35,000 different search words were used in the period to seek Israel tourist-related information and that from these, its British site www.thinkisrael.com received 20,577 hits, the US site www.goisrael.com got 57,412 and the German Web site www.goisrael.de had 15,858 entries. Some 36% of the American surfers were seeking Jewish and Christian themes each, 18% were searching information on flights and packages to Israel, 7.7% sought out hotels and approximately 8% were looking for Eilat-related information. Flights and packages dominated the British searches taking 34% of the surfers' interest, followed by Christian themes (26%), Eilat searches (18%), Jewish themes (14%) and hotel-specific information (5.6%). The German site saw 45% of surfers seeking Christian-related topics, 22% looking for hotels, 13% interested in Eilat, 12% searching flights and packages and 5.4% wanting Jewish themes. Eilat gets taxis involved in tourism The Tourism Administration in Eilat has embarked on a process to transform the city to better service visitors and improve on its tourist product by involving the city's taxi drivers in travel-related topics. "Because of the importance of taxi drivers in that they have first hand daily contact with tourists and holiday makers arriving in Eilat and therefore are in touch with the daily issues facing visitors, we chose them to be the group to carry out our first pilot in the program to transform the city's service," the administration said. The administration received backing from the Tourism Ministry and decided to invest in advancing the service provided by the drivers by building a training program together with the municipality. The taxi drivers will be educated to raise the level of service they give, including training in different languages, which will improve their communication with the passengers. In addition, they will receive weekly updates on different events happening in the city. A bird's eye view Keeping an eye on travel through Israel of a different kind, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel is hosting the Soul Bird Festival next week for bird watching enthusiasts, tourists and locals, to view the winter migration of birds. The festival combines birds, music and Judaism and will feature a concert by Shlomo Gronich and other artists from the Galil, lectures on nature and Judaism as well as tours and hikes in the area. The festival will take place in two cycles, midweek from November 26 to 29 and the weekend cycle from November 29 to December 2 at the Pastoral Hotel in Kfar Bloom and the Rimonin Hotel in Safed. Lapping it up in Finland For Israeli travelers interested in adventuring a little further afield this winter, Harriniva Holiday Center is offering a 7-day program in the Kittilia village in Northwest Finland through the middle of January. Israelis participating in the program would join groups of six to 10 people from across Europe in activities including snowmobiles, skiing and a two-day dog-sled excursion. The tour cost ranges between â‚¬1,250 and â‚¬1,490 per person, depending on when one joins, including full board and tours but excluding flights to the region. Participants would need to make their way to Helsinki via a European destination as there are no direct flights to Finland from Israel and then make ones way to the North West. Harriniva is represented in Israel by Nili Abrahamovits and information about the experience can be found on her web site www.lapland.area.co.il.