Israelis were filling up flights and hotel rooms for the Passover holiday this year as the travel industry mostly shook off the last remaining effects of last year’s Gaza war.
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At Ben-Gurion International Airport, Israel’s main international terminal, officials said overall traffic for the holiday through April 12 would be up 5% ahead of last year’s record, with some 1.37 million passing through the airport on 8,532 flights.
On Sunday, some 54,100 fliers passed through Ben-Gurion on 362 flights, a number that will decline to 46,600 on Monday before peaking at a new record, as 69,000 travelers return home or leave Israel next Monday on 420 flights, the airport said.
“This year we’re seeing lower airfares and travel packages that are 10% to 20% lower than Passover 2014 because of the decline of the euro, the increased competition due to Open Skies and the decline in fuel prices,” said Gil Stav, vice president for marketing and sales at Israir.
Global energy prices have dropped as much as 50% in the past year while the Open Skies aviation pact between Israel and the European Union two years ago has increased the number of airlines, flights and destinations.
Meanwhile, Israeli hotels report that occupancy rates for the holiday were about unchanged from last year when tourism was at a record high before the Gaza war, Operation Protective Edge, caused tourism numbers to decline sharply and only slowly recover.
“All told, it’s been it’s been a typical Passover this year. We have a few rooms unreserved in a few of our hotels, but the situation is perfectly good,” said Nahum Kara, vice president for markets and sales at the Isrotel chain.
In Haifa, occupancies are the highest, according to the Israel Hotels Association, with rates running between 90% and 100% during the first day of the holiday. In Eilat, occupancy rates ranged from 80% to 90%, rising during the intermediate days of the holiday to as much as 95%. At the Dead Sea, the rate for the first day was 90%.
The one disappointment has been incoming tourism, which has been hurt by lingering security concerns and weaker Russian and European currencies. Yigal Tsoref, head of sales at the Dan Hotels chain, reported a decline of 10-15% in occupancies compared with last year.
“For us the change was due to foreign overnight stays,” he said. “It’s by no means an empty Passover, but it’s a little less good than last year and this is due to the combination of Protective Edge, and a decline in the value of the ruble and the euro. In terms of Israeli overnight stays, there’s been no change.”