Cost and fears of terror limit Israel tourism

Israel is a less attractive travel destination for tourists due to increasing hotel prices and the impact of terrorism on business, according to a survey by the World Economic Forum.

Israel, which was ranked 53rd out of the 140 countries on the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report released this month, slipped seven places on the biennial report, after it was ranked 46th in 2011 and 36th in 2009.

The report examined factors from the availability of transport to historic sites, using opinion surveys, tourism reports and experts.

On a scale of one to seven, Israel received a health and hygiene rating of 6.1. However, it received a price and competitive rating of 3.4.

You don’t have to spend a fortune to go to Israel. There’s plenty to see

The report said: “Israel benefits from its cultural attributes, including a number of World Heritage cultural sites [but] some aspects of safety and security continue to erode at the country’s travel and tourism competitiveness”.

Israel ranked in 124th place on concerns about terrorism.

“However, the decline in rank since the last assessment can also be attributed to diminished price competitiveness (ranked 133rd), the result of increasing fuel prices, hotel prices, ticket taxes, and airport charges,” said the report.

British holidaymakers have displayed a reluctance to travel to Israel because of escalating prices.

Danielle Jarvie, a 29-year-old mother of three from Essex, said: “It seems to me that Israel is a holiday destination for the rich and elite unless one has family to stay with while out there.”

Mrs Jarvie, who has not visited Israel since 2000, said her family were “put off by the cost of accommodation” — from hotels to hiring an apartment.

“A holiday to Israel is a long way off for us as a family, yet we are able to travel to neighbouring Egypt for a fraction of the cost. It’s very unfair and unfortunate for British Jewish children who cannot visit their homeland due to accommodation costs.”

For London-based Jacob Colton, Israel’s main attraction was the availability of kosher food. But, he said, it was still “incredibly expensive to go to Israel — around three times the price of an all-inclusive holiday in Turkey.”

However, a spokesperson at Blue Line, a Finchley-based travel agent that specialises in El Al flight distribution, said the company had “sold out flights for Pesach.

“You don’t have to spend an extortionate amount of money to go to Israel. Five-star hotels will naturally be more expensive, but there are plenty of three or four-star hotels available if your budget is smaller. There’s plenty to see and Israel needs its tourists.”

Naama Oryan-Kaplan, director of the Israel Government Tourist Office in London, said: “Issues with pricing are being addressed as regulations for hotels are being streamlined – thus making it easier for new ones to be built or existing ones to expand. This will create more rooms and hopefully reduce existing prices.

“Affordability is important, but so is value for money. Israel’s incredible assets, from its spirituality to beautiful landscapes, have no direct competition.”

She added: “Studies show that in 2012 departures from the UK going abroad fell by roughly 10 per cent, but numbers to Israel only went down one per cent.”

Switzerland topped the list of top travel destinations, and the UK ranked in fifth place, moving up by two places from the 2011 report.

Last updated: 8:45pm, March 21 2013