Travel Trends: Open skies take back seat

Having dominated the headlines over the past few years, the tourism industry has turned its attention away from "open skies" to investing in infrastructure as the primary need to encourage tourism.

pereaus beach 88 298 (photo credit: Courtesy Photo)
pereaus beach 88 298
(photo credit: Courtesy Photo)
Having dominated the headlines over the past few years, the tourism industry has turned its attention away from "open skies" to investing in infrastructure as the primary need to encourage tourism, as airlines have flooded the market with special deals to fill the increased supply of seats this summer. While Israel's aviation policy had in the past been a source of frustration for foreign airlines limited in their capacities on the Tel Aviv route as part of an effort to protect the local airlines during the slow years of the intifada, many were given the green light to add flights or operate larger planes starting from this April. The result has been a 20 percent increase in the number of seats flying into Israel this summer compared to last, which according to Foreign Airlines Association Chairman Avi Friedman, the airlines are under pressure to fill. "The challenge now is to fill those seats outside of the peak periods of the Jewish Holidays. This is why you see so many great deals at the moment," Friedman told The Jerusalem Post . "The local tourism industry's challenge today is to make sure it has the infrastructure to cater to the higher numbers." Tourism Ministry Director General Eli Cohen reported this week that Israel's aviation relations with the US, Germany and Britain were all satisfactory, that it was in the process of negotiating a bilateral aviation agreement with France and Spain, and that the only country it had stumbling blocks in negotiating an agreement with was the Ukraine. The government's next focus region, Cohen said, would be the Far East. Israel partners with Madrid Meanwhile, in the latest of tourism-related diplomatic developments, Israel and the Spanish capital of Madrid have agreed to strengthen tourism relations between the two regions. Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog met this week with Madrid District Governor Esperanzia Aguirre to discuss ways to make Madrid an attractive destination for Israelis with reciprocal marketing of Israel in Madrid. Among the issues discussed was the intention to increase the number of flights charter company Air Madrid operates between Tel Aviv and Madrid. It currently flies four times a week. Israir, Ofir Tours target Romania In another recent aviation development, Israel's Civil Aviation Authority and its Romanian counterpart cleared the way for charter flights to operate between the two countries spurring Israeli companies to climb on board with flights to Romania. Israir Israel Airlines said it would start flying to Romania in July and operate weekly flights from July 10 through the end of October. The flights will leave Israel Monday evenings using a Boeing 757. Tour operator Ofir Tours also said it was in negotiations with El Al subsidiary Sun Dor to operate weekly flights to Romania. Ofir Tours said it expects a 20% rise to approximately 23,000 Israelis traveling to Romania this year. US travel site launched in Ra'anana The other major trend seen in tourism over the last few weeks has been an increased Israeli marketing presence on the Internet with the launch of the new look Tourism Ministry Web sites and the expansion of's Israel section earlier this month. Catering for traffic in the opposite direction, Ra'anana-based company launched its Web site giving a comprehensive guide in English for planning a trip to the US. While not necessarily focusing on Israeli travelers, the company said the decision to base in Israel was an obvious one. "In Israel, we were able to combine proven Internet expertise with a huge base of experienced travelers and content developers," Elliot Cohen, TripCart's CEO and founder, said. Boeing re-evaluating in-flight Internet Meanwhile, aircraft manufacturer Boeing is reevaluating its in-flight Internet unit 'Connexion by Boeing' and is gathering feedback from customers "to assess the current state of the market and develop plans that address market conditions." Boeing, which through Connexion provides the technology enabling airlines to provide on-board Internet services, said it was considering three options: sell the unit, find a partner for the business or close it completely. Dismissing reports that El Al was stopping its in-flight Internet service, a spokesman for the airline said El Al was happy with the service and would continue to provide it. Summer specials continue to roll in El Al, meanwhile, presented a special deal for customers flying abroad this summer, offering passengers the option of paying for their tickets to any destination over 10 interest-free installments. The deal stands for flights leaving Israel between June 28 and August 31. Newcomer to the Israeli market, low cost airline HapagFly has presented its model of one-way tickets to local consumers wishing to fly to various cities in Germany. The TUI subsidiary, represented in Israel by Holiday Travel, is offering one-way tickets to Berlin, Cologne, Munich and D sseldorf on specified dates for $130 (including taxes and surcharges). The price applies for flights in both directions. Other interesting deals presented this week include offers from Alitalia to various destinations in the US and Europe. The airline is offering return flights to New York for $725, to Boston for $750, Washington for $750 and Chicago/Miami for $790 - all including taxes. The offer stands until July 15 for travel between October 25 and March 25. Tnuva brings Pireaus to Michmoret For Israelis choosing to stay in the country this summer, dairy producer Tnuva has invested NIS 1 million to convert Michmoret beach near Hadera into a "Greek style" beach with a full entertainment package from Wednesdays to Fridays. Tnuva's "Pireaus beach in Michmoret" will offer a range of entertainment from outdoor movie screenings to Greek music to performances by well-known Israeli artists, along with kids activities and regular beach type activities during the day. The company has renovated the beach and redecorated it to resemble that of a beach in Pireaus, Greece, and has even brought in a Greek restaurant to join the party. Tnuva said it expects some 400,000 visitors to the beach during the summer season.