Hotel group launches its own flights to Eilat

Eilat’s leading hotel chain, Isrotel, is to launch its own flights to the Red Sea resort for the forthcoming winter season.

The service, branded as the Isrotel Sun Express, will be reserved for those booking accommodation at Eilat’s Isrotel hotels and will operate between Luton and the resort, starting on December 14 for Chanucah. The service will then operate over the Christmastime and New Year period, before resuming on February 15 and continuing until after Passover.

The 14 flights will operate using 212-seat aircraft belonging to Sun D’Or, El Al’s daughter airline. “Although they will be charter flights, the service will be upgraded to include high-quality food and beverages,” said Isrotel managing director Raffi Sadeh at the launch of the service in London on May 21.

Packages will initially be available at just four of the chain's eight Eilat properties - the ultra-luxe Royal Beach, the elegant Royal Gardens, the family-friendly King Solomon's Palace, and the all-inclusive Lagoona.

It will not only include transfers – on arrival and departure – but will also allow passengers to check in for the return flight at its Royal Beach Hotel, maximising time spent at the resort.

Mr Sadeh said: “In the long term, Isrotel would like to operate weekly flights throughout the winter season.”

The initiative by the London-based company for winter 2009/10, follows a decline in UK visitor numbers to Eilat, which fell from 45,000 in 1997, to 6,000 in 2004.

“Unfortunately, we have seen a substantial decline in the UK market, which is partly due to the lack of direct flights. We believe it is a very important market, so we decided to launch our own flights. We hope this will bring many more British people to Eilat. We will invest all we can to make this a success,” added Mr Sadeh.

The chain, which also operates hotels at the Dead Sea and in Tel Aviv, and the glamorous Carmel Forest Spa, has been subsidising flights from Paris to Ovda to support French tourism which is also vital to the resort’s economic health.

Mr Sadeh said they have received backing from Israel’s Ministry of Tourism, which is to support the operation with a general advertising campaign to boost Eilat.

Pointing to the success of a similar initiative by Isrotel in France last year, with flights from Paris to Ovda, Isrotel chairman David Lewis said: “We are proud of the fact that we have always tried to be innovative, going beyond pure hotel-keeping, to solve such problems and give a more complete service to our guests.

“Last winter, some British tourists had difficulty getting a direct flight to Eilat, being obliged to fly to Ben Gurion and get a connecting flight. This was not always convenient, and sometimes meant an overnight stay in Tel Aviv adding to the cost and reducing holiday time at the destination,” noted Mr Lewis.

He also pledged to keep the cost of the flight down: “Having regard to the traditional connections between Isrotel and the British market, we want to support this connection in any way we can, and we have accordingly reduced our margins for the flights from Britain.”

Last updated: 2:21pm, October 6 2009