Israeli Travelers Shun a France Reeling From Terror

Demand for flights has dropped sharply this summer, but so have airfares for those brave enough to take the trip.

French police patrol on the walkway above a public beach in Nice, France, July 17, 2016.
Pascal Rossignol, Reuters

What a twist of fate: Israelis are shunning travel to France this summer out of fear of terror attacks.

Travel industry sources say bookings for flights to Paris and other French cities are significantly down this summer after a series of terror attacks, from the Charlie Hebdo shooting in early 2015 to the stabbing of an elderly priest on July 26 in the town of Saint-tienne-du-Rouvray.

“Reservations on flights to France are down this year 15 to 20 percent. The drop started a year and a half ago after the attack on the Jewish grocery store in Paris and it’s continued into this year,” said Ronen Carasso, deputy CEO at travel agency ISSTA.

Israelis, with terror problems of their own at home, are avoiding holidays in France, but they aren’t the only ones steering clear of the usually popular tourist destination this summer. In the first half of the year, France reported a 5.8% drop in air passenger traffic compared with a year earlier. Hotel reservations in the Riviera region have dropped as much as 30% in the weeks after the July 14 attack in Nice, according to the country's Ministry for the Economy and Finance.

Some 240 people have been killed in France in seven attacks since the two-pronged assault on the office of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery story in January 2015. In the same period, 51 Israelis were killed in attacks.

Online travel sites like Daka 90 and Travelist report similar drops in demand for vacations in France.

“In Israel we’re seeing declines of 230 percent in demand and in reservations for flights this summer, compared with previous years,” said Dana Lavi, a deputy CEO at Daka 90. “These are the figures up through July and we expect the decline to continue going forward. The public is simply afraid after the terror attacks of the last few months."

At Travelist, France’s ranking among the most searched destinations has fallen precipitously — from No. 6 in 2015, to No. 10 last year and No. 15 this year.

Israelis who opt for France, however, can benefit from others’ fears: Airfares have fallen sharply, a survey by TheMarker shows. In April 2015, the cheapest flight to Paris, on the Dutch airline Transavia, was $601; this month, the same carrier will fly you for Paris for just $452, 24% less.

“Today you can find direct flights to Paris for $400, when the same time a year ago you couldn’t buy a ticket for a similar date for less than $600 or $650,” said Carasso. “Even holiday packages have come down. A three-day package is selling for $649, compared with $850 a year ago.”

Strangely enough, Israelis are still flying to Turkey — at least through Turkey, where they connect to other destinations — even though that country has suffered a wave of terrorism as well as an abortive coup that cost more than 200 lives.

Israel’s Airports Authority said the number of people travelling to Istanbul is up 13% so far this year. Demand is so strong that Turkish Airline is now negotiating with local charter carriers to add 20 flights during August and September.

“Demand is still strong because flights are very short, the layover time at the Turkish airport is relatively short, fares are low and the service is good,” said Daka 90’s Lavi.