Passover tourism drops due to recession
Israel Hotel Association director-general reports 20% drop in occupancy rates this year, due to drop in foreign tourists coming to Israel, locals preferring to spend holiday at home. Drop in outgoing tourism also recorded, with 50% decline in trips to Turkey, mainly due to anti-Israel attitude felt in country
While the Passover holiday is generally accompanied by long lines at Ben-Gurion International Airport's departures hall, crowded Eilat hotels, and apologetic travel agents saying they don't have a single place left to offer, this year, due to the recession, more Israelis will choose to stay home.
Last Passover the average hotel occupancy rate in Israel was 90%, and hotels in Eilat and Jerusalem reported 95% occupancy. This year, however, a 20% drop in hotel occupancy rates is expected.
Israel Hotel Association Director-General Shmuel Zurel said that, at the moment, average occupancy during Passover this year stands at 70%.
The occupancy rate in Eilat is nearing 80%, while the Dead Sea area hotels reported 70% occupancy. Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Tiberias all reported an occupancy rate of about 75%.
While there is still time for the numbers to change, one must keep in mind that last year it was difficult to find vacant room for the holiday as early as two months before Passover.
Last year, whole hotels in Tiberias and the Dead Sea were booked by travel agencies that cater to the religious public, both for Israelis and Jewish tourists coming to Israel. This year, the number of bookings made by the religious public saw a 50% decline.
One of the causes for the drop in hotel occupancy rates this year is the decline in the number of tourists coming to Israel, due both to the global economic crisis and to Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, that was carried out in the period when most tourists make their reservations to Israel ahead of Easter and Passover.
But Zurel said less Israelis would also be booking rooms in hotels. "The recession has left its mark. When tens of thousands of people are laid off, going to a hotel on Passover isn't exactly people's top priority," he explained.
The economic crisis has also affected people's plans to travel abroad. "Cautious estimates in the branch indicate a 10% drop in the number of people going abroad," said Yossi Fattal, head of the Israel Tourist and Travel Agents Association.
Even now, a week-and-a-half before Passover, there are plenty of free spots in travel packages abroad.
Turkey will suffer the most significant decline in Israeli tourists this year, as many still prefer to stay away following the anti-Israeli atmosphere that has risen in the country following the Gaza offensive. According to estimates, the number of Israelis to travel to Turkey will be about half as much as last year.