Holiday travel to Israel, which recently saw some of the
strongest numbers since violence broke out nearly five years ago,
is expected to remain popular during the upcoming religious
holidays. Despite some concerns about regional unrest, many tour
operators say interest in Holy Land travel is resuming. Bethlehem
remains a popular Christmas destination, and tourists are already
making plans for Easter and Passover travel to Jerusalem.
Removing Red Tape
Last year, Israel and Palestinian officials worked to boost
religious travel to the region by simplifying checkpoints between
Jerusalem and nearby Bethlehem, allowing tourists to take in the
city’s many biblical sites and monuments. Tourism ministers of
Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority in the wake of
concerns about possible disruptions after this summer’s Gaza and
West Bank resettlements are working to develop tourism packages
that would include 18- and 22-day visits. The ministers also want
the U.S. government to lift its travel advisory to the region.
Despite periodic unrest and government warnings, travel to Israel
has continued to surge, with the country hosting 1.37 million
tourists last year and projections for 2 million this year,
including more than a half-million North Americans.
Several tour operators are also wooing tourists to Israel by
offering holiday travel packages. Tlalim Tours in Washington, D.C.,
in cooperation with the Jewish Community Center of Manhattan, is
offering an eight-day trip for 20- and 30-somethings from Dec.
25-Jan. 2. The trip includes a candlelit tunnel tour in Jerusalem,
a hike of the Red Canyon, a Jeep tour of the Golan Heights and a
New Year’s Eve party on the beaches of Eilat. Israel Tour
Connection is offering a Passover 2006 family tour set for April
9-21, which includes accommodations at the Sheraton Plaza Hotel in
Jerusalem, a Passover Seder at the hotel, walking tours of the Old
City and visits to the Museum of the Diaspora and the mountain
fortress of Masada.
Resort operator Club Med is considering reopening and renovating
its Achziv property in northern Israel by early 2007, which could
give the region a significant tourism boost. In cooperation with
the Israel Ministry of Tourism, Club Med also launched a new
marketing campaign for its all-inclusive resort in Eilat. While
much of the effort is aimed at French tourists, which officials
hope will double by the end of next year, it also offers U.S.
travelers and agents a growing range of accommodations. After a
deadly explosion, Club Med’s Achziv vacation village closed in
1997. Now, with the improving climate, company officials are
looking into reopening the resort.
Israel’s largest international hotel chain, Sheraton Moriah Israel,
with nine hotels and approximately 2,200 rooms in the region,
recently announced plans to invest $20 million in upgrades and
renovations to several hotels. With flagship properties, such as
the Sheraton Moriah in Tel Aviv and the Sheraton Plaza in
Jerusalem, the company also launched a variety of packages for
At the Sheraton Moriah, a romantic Nights in White Satin package
includes white silk sheets, robes and slippers, an in-room
candlelit gourmet dinner for two, a 30-minute couple’s massage at
the hotel spa and a bottle of wine. The hotel’s Pensioners’
Package, meanwhile, offers guided morning walks to Jaffa on the
Tel Aviv promenade; daily morning exercise on the Tel Aviv beach; a
variety of lectures and activities, including artistic
performances, dancing and sing-a-longs.
Israel Ministry of Tourism
Israel Tour Connection