Empty Tel Aviv cafe, this week. Flight attendants stay away
Photo: Moti Kimchi
Tourists cancel visits, flights prolonged
Some 15% of organized groups scheduled to arrive Israel in coming weeks call off their trips due to security situation. Flights from Europe take two and a half hours more as planes stop in Cyprus to replace aircrew
Dozens of organized tourist groups which were scheduled to arrive in Israel in the coming weeks have called off their trips due to the Israeli operation in Gaza.


The itinerary of these groups, which are mostly comprised of pilgrims, includes visits to Jerusalem's holy sites, which are currently under the threat of a missile attack.


According to Shmuel Marom, chairman of the Israel Incoming Tour Operators Association, "In recent days we've seen tourists who are already in Israel asking to cut their stay short, but the most concerning issue is the cancelations of tourist groups.


"We are talking about cancelations for the next two-three months, including groups that were supposed to arrive on Christmas. About 15% of tourists in organized groups have canceled. This is a bad situation. We cannot plan tourism with such uncertainty."


Meanwhile, planes departing from and arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport have been diverted from their regular take off and landing routes in order to avoid being hit while the Iron Dome is intercepting rockets over central Israel, an IDF officer said Monday.


The fighting has also led to changes in flight schedules. Evening flights from Amsterdam and Paris to Tel Aviv are prolonged by two and a half hours as the Air France and KLM airlines have decided to make a stopover in Larnaca, Cyprus to replace their aircrews.


The two companies' aircrews usually stay at Tel Aviv hotels after their evening flights, while the morning flight crews arrive from Europe to Israel and then return on the same plane. Following the security situation, the airlines decided that their evening flight crews would not stay overnight in Tel Aviv as well, and so the aircrews are replaced in Cyprus and the new crew continues to Tel Aviv and returns on the same plane to Amsterdam or Paris.


The shipping industry has been affected by the situation as well: Queen Elizabeth 2 and Costa Pacifica, two cruise ships carrying more than 6,000 passengers, announced that they would not dock in Israel this week.


Yoav Zitun contributed to this report



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