As the tourism industry continues to assess the extent of the damage from the war in the North, the Central Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday reported that the average hotel occupancy rate dropped to 64 percent in July compared to 69% in the parallel month last year. While the drop may not have been as steep as expected, perhaps due to tourism being on the rise for the first half of the month before the fighting broke out, the data show stark contrasts when analyzed more closely. Occupancies in northern hotels, excluding Haifa, dropped to an average 29.4% from 56.3% last year, while Haifa hotels were 53% full for the month, down from 71.6% in July 2005. Although Haifa came under heavy attack during the fighting, some hotels maintained their operations, catering to the scores of foreign journalists covering the situation in the North. The rest of the country, meanwhile, remained relatively stable from year-to-year with Jerusalem hotels at 59% occupancy; Tel Aviv at 75%; those in the South, including the Dead Sea and Eilat, at 79%; and the Center at 64.3%. CBS said the hotels sold just over 2 million overnight stays through July of which 1.5 million were to Israelis and 579,000 to tourists. Through July, the industry has had 11.3 million overnight bookings this year, representing a 9% rise from the parallel period last year. Israeli overnight lodgings grew 1.6% to 6.7 million, while tourists bookings rose 23% to 4.6 million. Americans continue to lead arrivals In related statistics from the Tourism Ministry, tourists from the US have made up just under one-quarter of the total 1.2 million foreign visitor arrivals in the first seven months of the year, with some 332,639 tourists from the US having come to the country - 24% more than last year - despite a 17% drop in arrivals in July when 38,967 US citizens visited. At the same time, the surprise this year has been France, albeit for the wrong reasons. While France, along with the US, has been a key market for the tourism industry over the last two years showing strong growth, that has taken a turn this year as French arrivals dropped 12% in the first seven months to 154,465. Sources familiar with the French market attributed international trends to the fluctuations but added that in previous years anti-Semitism had peaked in France causing greater numbers to come to Israel. Some notable increases for the year so far include an 83% rise in Polish visitors to 26,522; 27% growth from the Ukraine to 18,733; and an increase of 24% from the Nordic countries to 31,184. Of the Anglo countries, 12% more tourists arrived from both the UK and South Africa to 98,066 and 10,597, respectively, while Canadian tourist arrivals increased 16% to 33,947 and 3% more Australians came, bringing the number of visitors to 11,378. All, however, had significant decreases last month compared to July 2005 as overall tourist arrivals dropped 26% to 148,100 for the period. Israelis make up for a lost summer One week after the cease-fire agreement went into effect, Hebrew travel Web site Gulliver.com said it has had a steep rise in bookings made on its site as families look to take advantage of the two weeks remaining of the summer before school resumes. Dealing strictly with the Israeli market, Gulliver reported a 50% increase in bookings over the week, saying it expected the trend to continue. Similarly, Diesenhaus Unitours said it expected a 10% rise in Israelis traveling overseas in September and October over the same period last year as many locals postponed their travel plans because of the war. The company estimated that some 650,000 locals will travel abroad over the period. First Tulip Inns open Meanwhile, the hotel industry continues to lay the foundations to handle the same growth they had experienced before the war. The Patel Hotel Chain this week opened new hotels under the Tulip Inn brand, following an agreement it signed two months ago with the Golden Tulip International Hotel Goup to establish a new range of hotels in Israel under its logo. The 100-room Tulip Inn Kinneret and the Tulip Inn Dead Sea, with its 96 rooms, opened this week, becoming the first to result from the agreement. The two hotels underwent repairs to the tune of $7m. before the openings. Cooling down in Eilat The Sheraton Herods Hotel in Eilat has opened Israel's first "Ice Bar" made, as the name suggests, entirely of ice. Opened in partnership with food company Elite to advance its new "Must with Cooling Effect" chewing gum, and the bar features ice sculptures prepared by international specialists in the field. At minus 10 degrees celsius, guests will be given special jackets upon entry to the bar, which will allow them to stay and drink cold drinks more comfortably. The bar will be open daily from afternoon till late everyday until October 15. Airlines in the dark on Internet Following the announcement by aircraft manufacturer Boeing that it has pulled the plug on its in-flight Internet service provider Connexion by Boeing, it remains unclear if El Al will seek out another supplier to continue the offering. The Israeli airline, one of 12 to take on the service, simply said that if another supplier does not take over providing the service in a reasonable period it would deal with the installations accordingly when Boeing's services stop at the end of the year. Reportedly, a number of suppliers have approached the airlines using the service, looking to take over when Boeing leaves. While Boeing reasoned that the market for the service had not materialized as expected, market sources said the airlines providing the service regretted Boeing's decision since the product had been met with high satisfaction from passengers using it.