Record Number of Israelis Fly, Vacation Abroad in July

Arrivals by foreign travelers down 2% amid strong competition from nearby destinations

Nir Keidar

Ben-Gurion Airport enjoyed its busiest July ever last month, but that was because of Israelis with wanderlust. Arrivals of foreign tourists were down for the month, as Israel faced intense competition for holiday packages from nearby destinations.

Some 1.926 million travelers passed through Israel’s main international airport last month – an increase of 9% over 12 months ago, according to figures released yesterday by the Israel Airports Authority. The number of flights was up 7%, to 12,684.

But the authority said the number of foreigners arriving to Israel was down 2% to about 232,000, from 245,000 last year.

Tourism executives say Israel struggles to offer attractively priced packages for sun and sea vacationers against competition from Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Jordan.

One exception, it noted, was travelers from China, whose numbers are tiny but climbed 40% in the first seven months of the year from the same period in 2015, the authority said.

The top draw for Israelis flying abroad last month was the Greek islands – the destination for 9.5% of all fliers leaving Ben-Gurion, the authority said. Flights to Turkey, which has suffered repeated terror attacks and an abortive military coup, were down 2.5%, it said.

Meanwhile, the drop in airfares and the great selection of carriers and flights have encouraged more Israelis to vacation abroad at the expense of traveling inside the country. Domestic flights, mainly to the southern resort city of Eilat, were down 10.5% in July compared to a year ago, and the number of passenger they flew was down 3%.