Israel’s big tourism guns, director general, Mr. Noaz Bar-Nir, and deputy director general, Mr. Oren Drori, of the Israel Ministry of Tourism, came to the United States last week on a multi-city tour to address the different markets, tour operators and other travel partners here in the States.
According to Bar-Nir, “We are addressing our different markets—the Christian market and the general market—but also the tour operators and decision makers.” They also visited other travel partners including airlines and an interactive Christian broadcaster seeking new tourism marketing opportunities.
Most importantly, Bar-Nir says, “We had meetings with a new airline company that is putting together a new schedule for flights to Israel next year, but unfortunately,” Bar-Nir adds, they weren’t at liberty to name the company until agreements are finalized.
This is important because up until last April, El Al—Israel’s national airline—had pretty much a lock on all traffic from the U.S. Now that the regulations have been eased, more U.S. carriers are increasing their flights to Israel to meet demand, with the hope of more competition that could result in lower fares and increased tourism to Israel.
On the Christian market front, the two officials met with executives of Sky Angel, a Christian-owned multi-channel provider of faith-based and family-friendly television and radio programming. “As our target is the Christian market, we would actually like to utilize these channels and go right to the audience. So we went to have discussions with the decision makers there.”
Interestingly enough, according to a survey of Christian travelers going to Israel, only about 38 percent of them are booking with travel agents—the bulk of them sign up with their church groups or book directly with tour operators.
In keeping with that, the two Israeli officials also met with a number of tour operators and travel agents. As a result, Bar-Nir says, they found that the main problem the agents and tour operators are having is with the airfares. Accordingly, many potential family travelers are finding it too expensive to travel as a family and they have to decide whether to go as a family or just go by themselves. “So this is very important in and of itself,” Bar-Nir says, “because now that we have a clear picture of what the problem is, we can try to solve the problem.”
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