Israeli Hotel Room Shortages Force Tour Groups to Cancel Trips

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Tourists visit the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, 2015.
Tourists visit the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, 2015.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Tour operators are reporting that they’re being forced to reject groups looking to book trips in Israel next year due to a shortage of hotel rooms.

The operators are reporting a lack of availability in April through June of 2018, as well as the fall months.

“It’s not the security situation limiting the number of tourists visiting Israel, but rather the infrastructure,” said Yossi Fattal, head of the Incoming Tour Operators Association.

Given the high demand, hotel prices can be expected to be 10% to 20% higher next year than they were this year, but that’s not what’s holding tourists back, he said.

“The fact is we’re seeing more and more groups that want to sign up and are willing to pay the price, which is currently at an all-time high. And of course these prices apply to everyone, both individual tourists and groups,” he said.

“Currently they’re fighting for every room. The operators are ensuring that all the groups that have committed to come actually show up, and that’s not something accepted to do in this field several months in advance,” he said.

So far his organization has failed to find a way to increase the number of available rooms, he said. It has considered options such as bringing in a cruise ship to dock in a harbor and provide an extra 2,000 temporary rooms, for instance, he said.

One reason for the high demand is the upcoming celebration of Israel’s 70th anniversary. All hotel rooms are booked for Israel’s next Independence Day, he said.

Amnon Ben David, CEO of Eshet Incoming Tours, noted that he had received a booking from a group of 150 Americans who wanted to stay up north in March. He was forced to split the group up between several kibbutzim in the area, he said. Another would-be reservation, for 480 Brazilians in the fall, sought rooms in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Ben David said he couldn’t find the groups enough rooms in either city.

“Last year I had no problem finding rooms in either city 10 months in advance for this size group,” he said.

Individual tourists do not face the same limitations, and often book in hostels or through AirBnb.

Incoming tourism increased 24% this year compared to 2016.

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