Travel Trends: Another summer option: Rent a yacht (or an island)
Travelers tired of sharing 5-star accommodations with other tourists can enjoy additional privacy this summer aboard their own private yacht.
By NATHAN BURSTEINHigh school travelers: The season of their youth
The start of summer vacation means the opening of the year's peak travel season for young people, with high school students foremost among them, the Issta travel agency reports.
Issta and other travel agencies are at their service, naturally, as vacationing students make plans for trips within Israel and overseas. Based on data from the Central Bureau of Statistics, Issta says it expects roughly 175,000 students between the ages of 15 and 19 to leave Israel this year, with 100,000 of those departures taking place during the busy summer period. Top spots for Israel's independent young travelers include Cyprus and the islands of Greece, though Issta is offering flight deals and information for another popular, significantly more distant destination: Thailand.
Eilat remains the peak vacation spot for high school students staying within Israel, with the city's short-term apartments and youth hostels expected to fill particularly during July and August. Recent high school graduates enjoying a final getaway before the army will be joined in Eilat and overseas by their slightly younger counterparts - teenage travelers planning to work in July before using their earnings to travel prior to the resumption of classes in the fall.
Although student trips won't do much for the country's luxury hotels and restaurants, teenage travelers are considered valued guests in other sectors of the travel industry. Reliable customers at cheaper dining establishments and tourist-friendly dance clubs, Israel's young travelers are also known for their participation in adventure activities like bungee jumping and kayaking.
Cautious parents likely won't be thrilled to hear that hitchhiking remains a common means of transportation for school-age travelers, who still fall well below minimum-age requirements for renting cars in Israel and abroad. But whether due to parental concerns or uncharacteristic teenage caution, one former teen hot spot has nearly vanished from student itineraries, Issta officials say. Sinai, long a popular destination for teen travelers on a budget, has "almost been erased" from young tourists' travel vacation plans because of recent terrorist attacks, Issta reports.
Tourism Minister: Visit the Golan
Israel and Syria may be inching closer to negotiations over the Golan Heights, but as far as Tourism Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich is concerned, there isn't much to discuss. In a trip intended to "strengthen and emphasize the Golan's importance" to Israel's tourism industry, Aharonovich visited the region's wineries, Katzrin Park and other tourist sites Tuesday, announcing that the "Tourism Ministry is continuing to develop the Golan Heights' tourism [offerings], and that the Heights will remain a basic feature of tourism in the Land of Israel."
As part of his visit, Aharonovich also offered an official review of the NIS 3.4 million allocated by his office to fund tourism-related projects in the region, including "tourist villages" and better parking at heavily visited travel sites.
And in the South...
Mitzpe Ramon represents a missed opportunity for Israel's tourism industry, Aharonovich declared last week during a visit to the southern travel spot. Regrettable "bureaucratic" complications have prevented Mitzpe Ramon's development as a tourist stop, the minister said, pledging NIS 3.6m. for the site's "development and advancement" during the remainder of 2007. Plans for Mitzpe Ramon's future include the construction of a hotel at the desert lookout point. Ministry officials are working on longer range plans, the minister said, for the site's development and promotion between 2008 and 2010.
Another summer option: Rent a yacht (or an island)
Israeli travelers tired of sharing five-star accommodations with other tourists can enjoy additional privacy this summer in one of two places - aboard their own private yacht in the waters of southern Turkey, or, arguably even better, on their own private island. (If it's possible to arrange summer down time in one's own private Idaho, Travel Trends hasn't yet been informed.)
The Pingwin Sunorama travel agency is arranging private cruises for Israelis traveling in groups of 12 to 16, with daily rates starting at â‚¬400 and including yacht rental, the ship's crew, docking fees and taxes. Passengers are free to choose among pre-planned dining options in advance of the trip, and can enjoy stops along the way to swim, scuba dive and visit the port cities of southern Turkey.
Groups of a similar size have an additional option if they're willing to venture farther than southern Turkey. Islands in the Caribbean, Africa, the Bahamas, Honduras, Spain and Ireland can all be rented by groups of up to 15 in the coming months, with prices ranging between â‚¬1,800 a day for groups visiting Kilulu Island (not including the flight to nearby Mombasa, Kenya) and $22,500 per day to stay on Necker Island in the Caribbean. Leisure activities and dining options vary from island to island, but one suspects they're none too meager.
Arrangements for private yacht trips can be made by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org, while information about renting an island is available at dilim.co.il.
Summer flights to new Spanish, Italian destinations
Like its competitors, Israel's Sun Dor Airlines expects a summer increase in ticket sales. Unlike those of its competitors, the additional tickets will be sold in part on flights bringing summer travelers to Israel from non-hub cities in Spain and Italy, with Sun Dor offering non-stop service between Tel Aviv and destinations including Verona, Napoli, Pisa, Seville, Pamplona and Malaga.
US most popular country for May travel
More passengers flew between the US and Israel last month than any other country with direct flights to Ben-Gurion Airport. Though Paris' Charles De Gaulle Airport remained the single most popular destination for travelers leaving Israel, traffic to and from the US accounted for 14.7% of all entries and exits to and from Israel, the Israel Airports Authority reported, with just under 119,000 of all 848,000 passengers flying through Ben-Gurion arriving from or leaving for the US.
But while the US accounted for the single largest chunk of air traffic in and out of Israel, travel between Israel and the US' northern neighbor fell - the number of passengers traveling to and from Canada dropped by 25.8 percent, the single highest drop by any country. Travel between Israel and the Czech Republic also declined, by 23.6%, while travel to Romania and Turkey enjoyed the biggest increases, of 60% and 54.5%, respectively, over the same month the previous year.
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