Flight bookings to Paris by Israelis — usually one of their top three destinations — are down 30% since the terror attacks that rocked the French capital in January.
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“The drop in bookings is really significant and we didn’t expect it,” says Ronen Carasso, vice president of marketing of the Israeli travel agency, ISSTA.
“More than 200,000 Israelis fly to Paris every year. The city is a leading destination for Israelis and therefore this is very surprising. Usually, after terror attacks in Europe there is no change in bookings and people forget really quickly but in the case of Paris we are really seeing a slowdown in bookings,” said Carasso.
“Maybe it is because Paris is more identified with a Muslim population, so that affects Israelis’ decisions. If heaven forbid there had been a terror attack in Italy, I don’t think we’d be seeing a similar drop.”
The Gulliver travel agency reports a drop of 28% in flight bookings to Paris on El Al and a 33% drop in bookings on Air France during the first month following the attacks. “We didn’t expect a decline like that but you can’t argue with the data. Israelis are voting with their feet,” says Ronen Zeevi, the scheduled flights product manager at Gulliver. “However, for Passover we aren’t seeing any change in demand for direct flights. People are hesitating only when the flight date is soon and everything is fresh. For the long term, it’s less of a deterrent.”
At ISSTA, however, they say that even for Passover there are fewer bookings than usual.
At Daka 90, which specializes mainly in last-minute bookings, the drop in bookings to Paris is 30% compared to last year. “Past experience shows that Israelis usually shrug off events but apparently what happened in Paris was something acute. We are seeing a drift of bookings to destinations like Berlin, Prague and Budapest,” said a representative of the agency. “What’s interesting is it’s not even a matter of price. We find people are just looking less at Paris. Even if the airlines were to lower the price, at the moment people are less interested in flying there.”
El Al confirms there has been a decline in bookings to Paris by Israelis, but refuses to specify by the percentage. Last week El Al lauched a special sale of flight tickets to four destinations, one of which was Paris, priced at only $369 return.
“That was surprising,” says Carasso, “because Paris usually is not included in El Al’s reduced price destinations.”
Despite the decline in demand, the travel agents notes that, with the exception of the El Al special, prices to Paris haven’t gone down; they are similar to the prices before last month’s attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine and the kosher grocery store. There are tickets available at special sale prices (for
example, between February 22 and 26 there are charter flights for $300), but most of the tickets for the coming weeks are being sold for at least $450, a standard price for a flight to Paris at this time of year.