Hotel Stays Drop Sharply in July

Industry faces biggest crisis in decade as 600,000 fewer foreign tourists visit Israel compared to a year ago.

Morag Biton

Hotels saw a 24% drop in foreign tourist stays during Operation Protective Edge, leading to the industry’s biggest crisis in the last decade, said the Israel Hotel Association’s economic department on Monday.

There were 596,000 fewer tourist stays in July compared to the parallel period last year, said the umbrella group. The drop in business was observed at hotels around the country, with the exception of Nazareth, Tiberias and the Kinneret. Business at the Dead Sea dropped by a minor 2%.

Jerusalem hotels saw 22% less business in July, while hotels in Tel Aviv saw 39% less business. Netanya lost out on 33% of its business compared to last year, while Haifa lost 47%.

Business actually increased for hotels in Tiberias, up 8%, and in Nazareth, up 21% for July.

Hotels also saw fewer Israeli tourists, down 9% from the parallel period last year. However, Israeli tourists outright avoided Nazareth, an Arab city. There Israeli tourist stays were down 84%. Israelis booked a total of 2 million hotel nights in July, down 14% from July 2013.

Tourist stays had been up 16% for the year versus 2013 until Operation Protective Edge began, said Eli Gonen, president of the Hotel Association.

Figures for August are not yet final, but they stand to be even more stark than the July data, he said.

“It’s like we’re back in the summer of 2006, the Second Lebanon War,” said Gonen.

Meanwhile, hotels are apparently looking to lay off their armed security guards despite the security situation, in the wake of an agreement that raises guards’ wages, said Pini Schiff, the head of the Israel Security Association.

The Hotels Association denies the allegation.

Schiff sent the police commander for security matters an urgent letter on the matter.

He says the guards’ wages are being increased after several years of stagnation.