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Although they’re losing money, it’s smart for travel providers to offer flexibility on cancellations. It’s always easier to get people to return if they don’t feel nickel and dimed.
30% of tourists who planned to visit Israel in July-August have canceled their trips. The remaining 70% are now examining the cancelation fee policy in Israel.
Israel Tourist and Travel Association director Yossi Fattal estimates that 25% of the tourists vacationing in Israel who have encountered Color Red alerts and Iron Dome interceptions quickly left Israel. Israel Incoming Tour Operators Association chairman Shmuel Marom, on the other hand, believes that only a small proportion of tourists left Israel.
Of those who have not left, he says many have asked to transfer their excursions mainly to northern Israel. The Israel Hotel Association reports that 30-40% of overseas tourists had left their hotels in Tel Aviv earlier than planned, while 30% of had canceled bookings for the coming months in hotels in Jerusalem and Tiberias.
“In order to encourage tourists to wait and not cancel their reservations yet, in other words, to leave them on hold,” Marom says, “an understanding has been reached with the airlines, hotels, tour guides, and everyone in the sector in Israel that cancelation fees will not be charged for incoming tourism, although a final decision in the matter is up to each company individually, because the law bars a ban on cancelation fees. I am glad that the tourism industry has shown real maturity by making concessions to tourists.”
The situation in internal tourism is also dire. According to Fattal, as of now, new orders by Israelis for vacations in Israel have come to a complete halt, and 20% of vacations all over Israel already ordered have been canceled. According to the Hotel Association, there have been mass cancelations at hotels in southern Israel, and the occupancy rate is currently at only 20-30%, consisting mostly of the security forces, Israeli and foreign media, and security company employees.
On the other hand, Fattal says that only 10% of Israelis vacationing overseas have canceled. “People don’t see any reason to cancel their overseas vacation and stay here with their children,” he explained.
Fattal says that the travel agents’ main worry is that the summer season, which accounts for 40% of their annual income, consists of foreign tourism, not Israeli. “60 seconds after the operation is over, Israelis are back to business as usual. Foreigners, on the other hand, have a long memory,” he declares. He says that the economic damage is significant, and the level of pressure on the part of those working in the sector is high.
“Everyone realizes that if the situation ends within a week, the tour operators will be hurt, but can still walk. If it lasts a month, however, it is already liable to disrupt stability in the sector. We’re meeting today for an emergency meeting, in which we’ll decide how to conduct discussions with the government and the Knesset for creating compensation mechanisms for the tourism industry,” he stated.
According to Ministry of Tourism director general Amir Halevi there are cancelations, but no hysteria, at least not in internal tourism. “Israeli tourists have learned from experience. They all realize that one minute after Operation Protective Edge ends, they’ll be back to the routine of vacation. It’s not like that with incoming tourism, so most of our effort is directed to that.
We’re trying to explain to foreigners that this is not the usual situation here; it’s transitory, and when it happens, incoming tourism has to get used to living with noise. They have to realize that in a stormy sea, you have to keep your head below the wave. I’m glad that Iron Dome’s success is helping us a lot in our marketing work,” he said.
In any case, he added, the Ministry of Tourism is preparing for the day after with respect to compensation for those working in the industry. “This morning, there was a meeting at the Ministry of Transportation with the Israeli airlines in order to estimate the damage and formulate methods for giving aid.”