The Israel Airports Authority counted a 4% rise in the number of passengers passing through Ben-Gurion Airport in October compared to the same month in 2005, bringing the monthly total to 831,000 travelers, the IAA reported this week. The breakdown saw approximately 438,000 international passengers arrive at the airport during the month and 393,000 flying out. The IAA also said the number of international flights landing or taking off grew 7.2% to 5,985 planes for the same period. Israeli airlines carried 49% of the total traffic, or 408,171 passengers, showing growth of 10% compared to October last year. In the same month, air travel within Israel slowed by 1.6% as 30,937 in-bound passengers passed through B-G Airport. Looking forward, the IAA said it expects 590,000 passengers at the airport in December, of which 295,000 will pass through the arrivals hall. The busiest period next month, it added, is expected through the Hanukkah festival, December 15 to 23, when 26,000 passengers a day are forecast at the airport. Foreign airlines increase stake A larger portion of those passengers will be traveling with foreign airlines this winter, the Transportation Ministry said as it forecast a 20 percent rise in the number of flights operated by foreign carriers compared to last year. Whereas El Al will be operating the same number of flights this season as last winter, the ministry said it expects a further decline in El Al's market share. Gidon Siterman, the ministry's director-general, said one of the main contributing factors to the rise in foreign traffic was the increase in frequencies resulting from 10 companies receiving permits from the Civil Aviation Authority - a Transportation Ministry body - to either fly larger planes or add flights to their Tel Aviv schedule. In addition, four companies started operating scheduled flights into Ben-Gurion Airport during the year including Delta Airlines from Atlanta, HapagFly from Germany, an airline from Latvia and one from Russia. 200,000 Israelis to vacation in winter Meanwhile, a survey prepared by Tzabar Tourism and Holidays showed that more than 200,000 Israelis are planning to take vacations during the winter months. Based on its ticket sales for the period, Tzabar said the popular destinations for the season are China and Romania and ski locations in Europe. Eli Dassa, manager of the overseas department at Tzabar, said that since Romania joined the European Union the country has become the trend destination for Israelis traveling abroad. In a US state of mind While not necessarily featured on this year's winter radar, the United States remains the dream vacation for many Israelis. A survey conducted by Hebrew tourism Web site Gulliver showed that 24% of the 518 people questioned chose the US as the destination they want to visit most - well above Thailand, Switzerland, Italy and Australia, which were next on the list, each taking 5%. Gulliver said 14% of those questioned has visited the US in the last three years, while 38% had traveled to classical European destinations in the same period and 27% had been Mediterranean to countries. Some 35% of the respondents had not traveled abroad in the last three years. Appeal for hotel builders in Eilat The Tourism Ministry is marketing the Eastern Lagoon in Eilat as a potential tourist attraction and will soon launch a tender to build a new hotel on the 660-dunam area of land adjacent to the lagoon. The ministry said it is working with the Israel Land Administration to prepare the tender.