TORONTO — After welcoming over four million Canadian visitors in 2018, the Israel Ministry of Tourism (IMOT) is ready to reach five million in 2019.
Israel can be characterized by its 365 days of beautiful weather, broad spectrum of experiences and unlimited potential for travellers and travel agents.
The numbers continue to increase month to month and the tourism board is looking forward to welcoming more visitors.
From Canada, the outlook is strong, particularly with newly appointed Consul, Director for Canada, Gal Hana. Yesterday at IMOT Canada’s new offices at Yonge and Bloor in Toronto, Jerry Adler, Deputy Director, Director of PR and Communications, and Ellen Melman, Director Operations and Marketing, introduced Hana as part of a media briefing covering everything that’s new with the destination. Hana joined IMOT two years ago, as Professional Advisor to the Director General.
With a marketing plan that focuses on Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, IMOT has seen success in branding Israel not only with faith-based tourism product, but also more cosmopolitan experiences in its biggest cities, plus the country’s wonderful weather and adventure and leisure opportunities.
Newly opened is the Eilat-Ramon International Airport in southern Israel’s Negev Desert. This gateway brought in 50 new routes in 2019 and services the area near and surrounding popular beach resort Eilat.
Meanwhile the National Aviation Authority reported a 28% increase in airline routes from foreign destinations with over 1,000 routes to Tel Aviv. Air Canada has daily flights to Israel and El Al offers three times weekly service. Both airlines report load factors in the 80-85% range.
Israel as a faith-based tourism destination is more of a self-selling product, as described by Hana, however what agents should recognize are the other markets and age categories that the destination appeals to. Promoting all sectors of the destination can highlight the various experiences travellers can have.
Israel has been dogged by perceptions, real or not, of safety and security challenges but Hana says he feels this is a global issue now and that it’s important to show the evolution Israel has experienced in recent years.
Each area has different characteristics, and one strategy the IMOT is looking into for the next 20-30 years is finding how to showcase a little bit of everything that Israel can offer, from its Tel Aviv Pride to relaxing in the Dead Sea.
Working with the travel trade is very important for IMOT, says Hana. “We still see a huge segment of tourism that is loyal to traditional travel advisors, and we see the importance of approaching them and showing them the potential of Israel.”
Israel’s hotel industry is booming, and occupancy rates are high, in Tel Aviv (76%), Eliat (72%), Jereusalem (83%), and Tiberias (75%). There are 12,000 rooms currently and plans for 5,000 hotel rooms to come in the next few years.
IMOT is also looking at new solutions for accommodation, for example, repurposing and transforming older hotels and buildings into unique boutique hotels.
IMOT says a big goal right now is to promote the Israeli potential to investors. Hana says events such as Eurovision and Giro d’Italia have been very effective at showing Israel’s vibrant atmosphere.
Israel is a once in a lifetime experience that people should start taking now, says Hana. The destination can be enjoyed by all types of travellers, as accessibility has been a focus for Israel in recent years, with more navigable areas and wheelchair friendly areas.
Adler notes that Israel has a 93% satisfaction rate with visitors, and a 45% return factor.
Adds Hana: “We are very confident in the product we offer, because everyone can find what they’re looking for in Israel.”