300,000 Israelis expected to go abroad during holiday season.
By SHARON WROBEL
Encouraging signs of a recovery in the economy have not yet trickled down to the hotel sector, which suffered a 17 percent decline in overnight stays in July compared with last summer, the Israel Hotel Association reported on Tuesday.
"Reports from the hotel industry in Jerusalem, Tiberias and the North show a drop in group tourism. At the same time, there is a growing difference between the relatively modest decline in the number of tourists coming to Israel in July as reported by the Central Bureau of Statistics and the Tourism Ministry, and the much bigger decline in the number of hotel stays. The par can be attributed to the recent trend of shorter stays of tourists in Israel and an increase of tourists visiting relatives," said IHA President Naor Chen. "We believe that the way to revive incoming tourism to Israel is through an intensive marketing campaign in major target countries (the US, Russia, Germany and France)."
Chen added that the fall 2009 campaign would be the key to bringing back group tourism to Israel within six months.
Last month saw 680,000 overnight hotel stays by foreign tourists, down 17% from the 821,000 in July 2008. The number of overnight stays by Israelis rose 1% to 1.4 million. Fifty-three percent of the Israeli tourists stayed in hotels in Eilat. The total number of overnight hotel stays dropped 6%, to 2.1 million, in July. The average nationwide hotel occupancy rate that month was 66%, down 6 percentage points compared with the same month last year.
The Maccabiah Games in July lifted the hotel industry in Tel Aviv, Herzliya and Netanya, which saw a more modest decline in overnights than the rest of the country. Overnights in Tel Aviv were down 1%, to 203,000, year-on-year; overnights in Netanya dropped 5%, to 32,000, and in Herzliya they fell 7%, to 19,000.
The biggest drop in overnights by tourists in July was in Tiberias, down 41% year-on-year, to 29,000. Jerusalem suffered a decline of 30%, to 174,000; the kibbutzim were down 29%, to 44,000; Eilat, down 20%, to 39,000; the Dead Sea, down 18%, to 28,000; and Nazareth, down 17%, to 15,000.
From January to July this year, overnight stays fell 11%, to 10.8 million, from the same period last year, led by a steep decline of 26% in overnights by foreign tourists, which totaled 4.4 million. As more Israelis went on holidays within the country, the number of overnight stays by Israelis rose by 2%, to 6.4 million, during the same period. The average nationwide hotel occupancy rate in the first seven months of the year was 56%, down 15 percentage points compared with the same period last year.
Meanwhile, travel agencies are starting to see early signs of a recovery in outgoing traffic, starting with August, which is expected to show an increase of 7% after a decline of 12% in outgoing tourism in the first six months of the year.
"Following a surprise increase in outgoing traffic in August, we expect the positive momentum to continue during the coming holiday season as indicators for an emergence out of the recession and a recovery in the economy are strengthening," said Ronen Karso, deputy marketing manager at the Issta travel agency. "We estimate that more than 300,000 Israelis will travel abroad during the holiday season, similar to last year's numbers, out of which half are expected to travel around Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and the other half around the Succot holidays."
Karso added that fares to Europe and prices of package holidays were 20% lower compared with the same period in 2008.
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