Violence brings end to tourist flow up North

Home Front Command issues an advisory against travel to Nahariya and Kiryat Shmona areas.

hula valley 88 298  (photo credit:)
hula valley 88 298
(photo credit: )
Tourist-related businesses were hard hit by the uprising of violence in the northern region of the country on Thursday, many closing their doors as Israeli vacationers cancelled their plans to travel north. Many of the cancellations came after the Home Front Command issued an advisory against travel to Nahariya and Kiryat Shmona areas, which came under attack from Katyusha rocket fire Wednesday and Thursday. "The situation is very bad as all our guests for this week have cancelled their bookings," Yehuda Avshalom, owner of the Netiv L'ohavim guest house, told The Jerusalem Post. "We are expecting cancellations for next week too, and don't know the long- term effects of this operation." The cancellations mark an end to the steady flow of bookings the business, located near Nahariya, has had since opening its doors last December, Avshalom said. Adding to that sentiment, Ilan Josipovich, owner of bed and breakfast Aromantica, said the whole area has had a strong run over the last year - including his business, which opened in September 2005. "Now, we've already had calls about possibly cancelling bookings for August," he said. Not only hotels were hurt by the attacks. Dalton-Winery closed its doors and cancelled all bookings to its visitors center as the situation worsened Thursday. The winery said its vineyards located in the Ben Zimra, Meiron and Sifsufa area, had been under Katyusha rocket fire since the morning. In response, Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog, together with Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon, established a joint team to deal with problems that arise in the tourism and agricultural sectors in light of the security situation. Despite the sudden downturn for business however, Aromantica's Josipovich said he supported the military operation that brought about the situation. "We think the government is doing the right thing and that this is what needs to be done to bring quiet for a longer period," he said. With the memories the effects the Intifada had on the tourism industry still fresh in their minds, most market professionals were concerned that a prolonged operation would have a similar, more widespread effect on the industry. "The negative impact hasn't spread to the rest of the country's hotels, many of which were unable to host families from the north, because they were full," said Tova Pinto, director general of the Israel Hotels Association, which approached its member hotels in the center of the country to put families up. "If, however, this operation takes a long time, then we may see an impact. We still forecast a 25% increase in tourism for this year." Similarly, there have been no indications that foreign tourists were canceling flights to Israel. All of the airlines surveyed including El Al, Israir, Arkia, Lufthansa, British Airways and HapagFly said they had no cancellations due to security concerns although some said it was too soon to tell if the operation would have an affect on tourists' plans. "There have been no cancellations from overseas tourists planning a trip in the summer or for the high holidays, not even an email of concern," said Mark Feldman, managing director of ZionTours. "The feeling is that this will be a short-term operation which will not effect tourism," Feldman said. "The damage to the industry would come if it carries on for a few weeks." Meanwhile, Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog told CNN that Israel would do whatever it needed to achieve its goals in the operation and that this may take a long time and that a prolonged operation may feed the fears of the politically sensitive industry.