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For Israeli women, going on vacation means more sex and lots of touristy activities - whether they are with their partners or not. Even so, if the overseas trip involves intense physical activity, the women reported no significant improvement in their sex lives.

Such are the findings of a new study of the sexual behavior of vacationing Israeli women, conducted by the Department of Hotel and Tourism Management at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

The study, whose findings were presented at the annual forum for tourism researchers, held two weeks ago in Eilat, sought to determine whether having sex was a motivating factor for going on vacation and if it affected the women's satisfaction from their tourism experience. The researchers also tried to compare women's sexual behavior on vacation and at home.

"We focused on these aspects to learn about the importance of the tourism experience for women in Israel, and not out of curiosity concerning their sex lives," stresses Dr. Yaniv Poria.

Poria relates that after a pilot survey, the researchers decided not to interview men for the study, because the men interviewed explicitly stated that they did not describe things as the were, but rather exaggerated. In the second stage of the study, 21 secular Jewish women participated in detailed interviews with Liza Berdichevsky, 24, of Be'er Sheva, a master's degree student in Poria's department. Her research advisers were Poria and Prof. Natan Uriely. Eleven of the women, who all came from different socioeconomic backgrounds, were in their 20s, while the rest were over 30 and a few over 50. Each interview lasted two and a half hours.

"There was some embarrassment during the first five minutes," says Berdichevsky, "but [my advisers] taught me how to start in a non-threatening way, with a card game, while I assured the interviewee that her anonymity and confidentiality are safeguarded."

The study's findings show that having sex is an important factor in a woman's satisfaction from her tourism experience.

In some cases, it is even an essential element and/or a motivating factor for the vacation, meaning that the vacation is perceived as an opportunity for a couple to conduct their sexual relationship in a new, relaxed environment.

A vacation abroad is an opportunity to have casual sex in an anonymous environment, while such a relationship could harm a woman's image if it happened in the home environment. Does the type of vacation make any difference to the women's sexual behavior?

R&R, an aphrodisiac

According to the study, a rest and relaxation vacation, with not much coming and going, was described as a conventional holiday, and as ideal for sex among couples. The interviewees said they had more sex and that it was better while they were on vacation. One of the participants described this type of vacation as a break from the routine and as a "total vacation for enjoying one another. Spa, Jacuzzi, champagne, a relaxed atmosphere and romance, all revolving around sex."

In contrast, a trip backpacking was described by participants in the study as an opportunity to have casual sex in a foreign environment. In such instances, the number of sex partners increases, but the quality is compromised due to the limited familiarity with these partners.

On such trips the interviewees had what they called an adventure that they would not repeat in their home environment. They related to men as sex objects, and when asked their feelings regarding the casual partners, responded with descriptions such as, "having him [at night] and not seeing him the next day."

Meanwhile, on short vacations to Europe, interviewees said that having sex with one's partner was essential. It is also more frequent, despite the fatigue from the touring, but is not as good, because the couple is tired. Still, the interviewees said they would not forego it.

"To be on vacation abroad and not have sex?" responded one interviewee, who emphasized that on vacation she wants to try things she would not normally do in Israel.

Poria views this phenomenon as part of the ritual that accompanies the tourism experience: Just as tourists feel the need to tour the museums and famous sites in the cities they visit, even though they have no real inclination to do so, "having sex is sometimes also perceived as compulsory."

Business trips, on the other hand, were portrayed in the study as inappropriate for much sexual activity, since they are not perceived as free time that presents an opportunity for such activity in an anonymous environment.

The interviewees explained that sexual permissiveness is impossible when they are accompanied by their colleagues from work.