What Trouble? Israelis Flocking to Thailand

The Israeli tourist seems unfazed by the upheavals wracking Thailand, which have turned Bangkok into a war zone. "Not only aren't there any cancellations on flights from Israel to Thailand. Demand is higher," said Amit Livni, manager of the El Al commercial division.

How much higher? El Al switched to a bigger plane yesterday, Livni says, substituting a Boeing 767 with a 747 model that seats twice as many.

Yesterday Reuters reported that the Thai army was cracking down on anti-government protesters. Troops fired at crowds of protesters in Bangkok and demonstrators fought back with firebombs and rocks. Dozens were injured in the clashes and hundreds of soldiers and riot police approached Government House, where protesters who support exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra have been since late March.

"It seems Israelis are undeterred by the rioting," Livni said. Not that the capital city is their destination. The Israeli Passover tourist is generally going to a resort island like Phuket, Livni said.

Last week, when demonstrators closed down Bangkok's airport, El Al simply moved to another Thai city.

Issta marketing manager Noam Ron confirms the absence of cancellations on trips to Thailand. But Issta, which caters more to backpackers than first-class vacationers, says some Israelis did call from Thailand asking if they could fly home earlier. Ron estimates there are presently between 1,500 to 2,000 Israeli backpackers in Thailand, but Bangkok isn't where they stay.