After Michelle Rosenberg, Publisher of TravelAge West, returned from her first trip to Israel — an experience you can read about in this issue’s cover story, “Modern-Day Israel
” — she shared some of her first impressions. One of things that she was most surprised about was how nice the beaches are there.
“Of course the country is on the Mediterranean,” she said, “but, for some reason, I didn’t think about what a fun beach destination Israel would be.”
Rosenberg’s preconceived ideas about Israel are not surprising. When discussing Israel, words such as “ancient,” “holy” and “inspirational” often come up; you rarely hear the word “fun” used. Yet, according to the experts, Israel is just that.
“We always want to find creative ways to enhance the notion of Israel as a fun place,” said Offer Gat, CEO of North and South America for El Al Israel Airlines. “We want to enhance the idea that Israel is not just a place of history and religion, but a fun place to visit.”
Gat was referring to a haiku-writing contest El Al just conducted on Facebook, with the top entry winning a trip to Israel. The goal was to utilize a different, more playful approach to marketing Israel to consumers.
The importance of this approach was reinforced during a recent live webinar, where I discussed travel to Israel with such experts as Eliezer Hod of the Israel Ministry of Tourism, David Avoth of Isramworld and Ronen Paldi of Ya’lla Tours. (For the full, archived version of this webinar, visit TAWIsraelConnection.com
.) Paldi in particular, stressed that agents need to think about the unique, off-the-beaten-path aspects of Israel in order to best serve clients.
“In Israel, we have a lot of unknown, out-of-the-way sights that travel agents should be aware of because, by adding an extra day or two to a client’s program, they can enhance the experience more than they can imagine,” said Paldi.
Certainly, the majority of travelers to Israel — especially first-time visitors — are going to be captivated by the destination’s ancient, holy and inspirational sights. As this issue’s cover story points out, however, the “flip side” of Israel is not to be overlooked either.