Foreign tourist decline shows improvement

Approximately 116,000 foreign tourists arrived in Israel in January, 15% fewer than in the parallel month a year ago.

Approximately 116,000 foreign tourists arrived in Israel in January, 15 percent fewer than in the parallel month a year ago. Nevertheless, the tourism industry took encouragement from fact that the drop in visitors compared to a year ago has been falling. The Tourism Ministry said that since last summer's war in Lebanon, the year-on-year decline has narrowed significantly, from a 35% drop in August and September to a 15% drop in December and January. Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog said that rather than year to year figures, the important trend was the improvement shown from month to month since the war that brought the crisis to the industry. "We see a clear rising trend toward recovery that I hope will continue in the coming months," Herzog said. He told The Jerusalem Post earlier this month that he expects the industry to show real improvement around March, in time for this summer's tourist season. The monthly survey by the Central Bureau of Statistics showed that 97,100 tourists arrived by air in January, 95,000 of whom arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport and the remainder in Eilat. It counted 18,600 land border crossings by tourists, a drop of 22% over January 2005, and 100 arrivals by sea, half of last year's figure. Israeli travel still on the rise The number of Israelis travelling abroad continued to rise, however, as the 226,000 departures in January represented growth of 6.7% over last year. The CBS said 196,600 locals left by air, 28,900 by land and 3,000 by sea. The statistics showed that 180,000 people travelled internationally once during January while 16,000 made more than one trip, 80% of whom were male. Sixty-one percent of Israeli travelers were male. The average age of air passengers was 41 and that of land travelers was 36. Business travel surges Travel operator Shelli Tours said it has seen a surge in business travel bookings since the war. The company said it has had a 15% rise in bookings from business people between September and January over the parallel period a year earlier, driven by a surge of interest in attending business conferences and exhibitions. "Not only did the war not hurt business travel from Israel, it created a need to continue business as usual," said Jacob Lev Ari, CEO of Shelli Tours. "Businessmen travelling to exhibitions a number of times a year helps them become a regular and legitimate presence in their respective markets." Air France to offer in-flight language courses Business passengers and tourists spending a lot of time in the air can use their time more constructively after Air France launches in-flight language courses in April. The airline said the interactive lessons will be available via private screens on board all its Boeing 777-300 aircraft and will include a teacher, pronunciation exercises, tests and games for practice. At the end of each lesson, the student will be given a mark, the airline said. Lessons in 23 languages will be on offer at the beginner level: English, French, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Portuguese, Spanish, German, Cantonese, Korean, Greek, Russian, Arabic, Hindi, Thai, Malay, Indonesian, Tamil, Dutch, Vietnamese, Turkish, Tagalog (Filipino) and Danish.