Demand on tours to Israel close to zero
Israeli Air Force continues to strike the Gaza Strip. Although the Palestinian side has reduced the intensity of rocket attacks on Israel, about 200 Israeli citizens, affected by the attacks, have asked for various types of medical care. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has urged the parties of the conflict to cease fire. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has pledged that Tel Aviv had no plans for a ground operation. However, the world wonders what is going to happen next? How will the conflict affect the tourist industry?
According to Russian tour operators, there were about 1,200-1,300 people on the resorts of the Red and Dead seas over the weekend. The people had arrived from Moscow through Ovda airport. In total, there are more than 100,000 foreign tourists staying in Israel. In turn, the Ministry for Tourism of Israel has assured that all guests of the country were outside the zone of fire.
"The State of Israel is well prepared for the emergence of any situations and has all necessary tools, experience and will to ensure complete safety and well-being for its citizens and visitors," said portal tourprom.ru with reference to the Israeli Ministry for Tourism. According to the ministry, in Eilat, on the coast of the Dead Sea, in Jerusalem, Netanya and Galilee, the situation remains calm. All airlines flying from Russia to Israel are carried out according to schedule.
Prior to official recommendations from the Russian Foreign Ministry not to travel to Israel, Russian tour operators do not view the situation as force majeure. Should tourists refuse from their trips to Israel, they will have their money back, except for the losses of tour operators. In practice, it means that tourists will lose flight ticket money.
According to the press secretary of the Russian Union of Travel Industry (RST), Irina Tyurina, Russian tourists have started to refuse from their planned trips to Israel. "Cancellations touch upon the nearest departures, and the following dates and even New Year tours, despite the fact that New Year tours to Israel have sold 70-75 percent," she said.
Russian media report that those who purchased a tour with a departure for the next few days, will lose a part of their money, should they decide not to travel to Israel. Those who had planned to see the New Year in in Israel, but changed their minds due to circumstances, are likely to be reimbursed completely. Operators also recommend to freeze tours and wait.
Russian travel agencies have reported that there is no demand on Christmas and New Year tours to Israel, although this is a common phenomenon for the end of November. Everyone is waiting either for the truce agreement or for a military escalation of the conflict.
Israeli hoteliers have officially declared their intention not to penalize Russian tour operators for cancellation of tours. Nevertheless, Russian tour operators asked their Israeli partners to lower prices on tours to stimulate the demand.
Official spokespeople for the Russian Foreign Ministry said on November 19 that the ministry recommends Russian tourists in Israel should exercise caution and refrain from visiting high-risk areas, especially the areas in the immediate vicinity of the Gaza Strip. It was just a piece of advise. The prohibition to travel to the Holy Land has not followed. Ukraine and Belarus, for instance, have directly advised their citizens not to travel to Israel.
Most likely, Russian tour operators will resort to restrictive measures only in case of full-scale ground operations. The Israeli Embassy in Russia takes a similar stance. Tour operators, of course, are interested in sending people to Israel. Travel agencies do not expose the exact number of tour cancellations, claiming that the number is low.