Tourism to Israel grew 26 percent in the first four months of the year, compared to the same period in 2005, as the country welcomed 674,900 foreign visitors during the period. The Central Bureau of Statistics and the Tourism Ministry reported Wednesday that 563,300 of the tourists arrived by air, a rise of 21% from last year, while land border crossings grew 63% to 109,800 and sea arrivals increased 10% to 1,100 tourists. Of the air arrivals, 33,700 tourists flew direct to Eilat, some 30% more than last year. For the peak tourist month of April which included the Pessah and Easter holidays, 209,900 foreign tourists arrived in Israel, representing growth of 29% over April 2005. ... and Israelis continue to travel At the same time, CBS reported some 970,100 Israelis traveled abroad between January and April, representing an increase of 8.3% over the year-earlier period. Ten percent more locals, or 830,100 people, flew out of the country in the first four months of the year, while 6.1% fewer crossed the land borders, and 11,900 travelers left by sea, which was 37% more than last year. Perhaps heeding government warnings for travel to the Sinai, 10.1% fewer Israelis crossed the border in Eilat to Egypt as 60,600 people traveled there. Some 67,400 locals crossed Israel's borders with Jordan, down 2.2% from last year. In April, 336,000 Israelis traveled abroad, 167,000 of them men and 137,000 women, the CBS said. ... and business is better With the rise in tourism already a steady trend, the Tourism Ministry said this week there were 17% more travel-related businesses in Israel in 2005, than in the previous year. Among the 82,000 businesses counted, approximately 27,000 were hotels, 12,000 restaurants and 10,000 transport services companies. "These statistics point to the direct relationship that the rise in tourist arrivals has on the economy," Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog said. "Our goal is to further increase the number of tourism related businesses to 100,000 by the end of the year." Kosher travelers not left behind After a significant drop in Kosher travel abroad last year, the religious travel market is making a comeback in 2006. Nachman Kaidar, CEO of Gesher Tours, said the kosher travel market out of Israel had a slow year last year due to the disengagement from Gaza, but it was expected to surpass even previous "regular" years in 2006. Gesher reported that approximately 100,000 religious Israelis travel abroad each year. British Airways refurbishes business lounges British Airways has refurbished its lounges at Heathrow Airport's Terminal 1 and Terminal 4 for its Club World business class passengers. With BA flights to Israel departing from Terminal 4, the company said it has increased the capacity at its Terminal 4, Gate 1 lounge to 400, while the Terraces Lounge, near Gate 10, has seen extended business facilities added. Also, the Concorde Room now features a separate dining room and extra seating in the lounge. In line with the upgrades, the company also is offering a new menu of foods in the lounges. Lufthansa offers live Internet TV on TA flights Two years after launching its Flynet Internet service, German airliner Lufthansa has added to that service, enabling on-board access to four TV channels via the Internet. The airline said that 61 planes of its 78 strong wide-body fleet flying out of Frankfurt and Munich are now equipped with Flynet, including the Airbus A340-600 it uses on evening flights to Tel Aviv and approximately half the Boeing B747-400s it operates on morning flights. With the TV channel additions, users can view EURONEWS, CNBC, BBC WORLD and MSNBC via the Internet on their laptop computers. Renovated Sheraton Tiberias reopens The Sheraton Tiberias reopened its doors earlier this month, after three months of renovations. The hotel invested $3 million in the upgrade, which introduces 170 new "superb" rooms; 14 new suites of the same name; and a new fitness room. The five-star hotel overlooks the Sea of Galilee and has a total of 258 rooms.