Tour operators are trying to be sensitive to the war conditions currently underway in Israel.
Borders across Israel are now closed, and flight options are diminishing as major airlines stop commercial operations in Israel. Certain governments, including the United States, will use charter flights to evacuate their citizens.
Tour operations have also stopped. Intrepid Travel has suspended all trips until the end of the year. G-Adventures has canceled its tours until November 5. The Travel Corporation’s Trafalgar, Contiki, and Insight Vacation brands have canceled all operations until the end of November.
Many of these operators had guests in Israel or en route for planned trips.
“We had a lot of clients in destination who we brought home and currently we’re pausing operations, and we’ll make an assessment as we go,” said Kelly Torrens, vice president of Kensington Tours. “We’re taking stock this weekend to determine what our clients are feeling, [and] how can we be as compassionate and reasonable as possible.”
Travel Advisories Unchanged for Egypt and Jordan
Intrepid said canceling its Israel tours until the end of the year would give affected clients a better chance to make alternative plans. “Customers booked onto trips in November and December are in the process of being contacted, as are agents,” an Intrepid spokesperson confirmed. “While trips in Israel and the Palestinian Territories are paused for the remainder of the year, Intrepid tour departures in neighboring Egypt and Jordan continue as scheduled. Government travel advisories for Egypt and Jordan remain unchanged, and both countries remain open for tourism.”
G Adventures runs six itineraries in Israel but had no tours on the ground when the conflict started. However, a few travelers arrived in Israel independently ahead of their G Adventures trip, said Simone Licciardello, Regional Operations Manager, Europe, Israel, and Turkey. Most of its customers for Israel are from the U,S., UK, and European markets.
“As these trips were canceled, we supported those travelers in rearranging their flights to leave the country. We are in touch with a few remaining clients who are planning to leave the country in the coming days,” said Licciardello. “We all know that the country is in a continuous state of conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, and there are occasional tensions. Something to remember, though, is that most of the conflicts are in the south or north of Israel, which are not regions we travel to. However, when conflicts escalate, we believe it’s best practice to stop our operations until the situation stabilizes.”
Limited Options to Leave Israel
Sasha Gainullin, the CEO of Robin Assist, a 24/7 emergency travel and medical assistance service, reported assisting over 3,000 travelers in Israel over the last week.
Robin Assist used various routes, including secure buses to Jordan and connections to destinations like Morocco, Greece, Spain, or Turkey. The main concern was the rapid rise in flight costs out of Israel, said Gainullin. First flights available from Tel Aviv to New York, Chicago, and San Franscico cost as much as $1,593, according to a search on flight comparison site Skyscanner at the time of publishing.
Effective communication and the flexibility of insurance policies were key in supporting travelers during this crisis, as many travel insurance policies typically exclude war and terrorism coverage, said Gainullin.
“I’ve worked in the emergency assistance and travel insurance space for the past 25 years, including supporting people stuck in war zones and natural disasters. I can honestly say that the situation in Israel is very similar to 9/11. This is because of the complex intricacies of security risks and the limited options available when arranging travel for thousands of people trying to get out of Israel.”
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