Israel Tourism launches 'friendly desert' campaign

With the Negev in the spotlight for 2020, more direct flight routes from the UK to Israel may also be on the cards


After another record-breaking year for tourism to Israel, new flight routes from the UK are a priority for the country, according to Amir Halevi, Director General at the Israel Ministry of Tourism.

After Virgin Atlantic launched its new route to Tel Aviv from Heathrow in September, direct flights to the newly opened Ramon Airport, as well as routes from Manchester will be key to continue the growing number of tourists.

“For the Jewish community, I think that we have a lot of new options for direct flights from the UK,” said Halevi. “Hopefully Virgin will continue to grow and a new flight even to Manchester.”

Arrivals to Israel have increased from 2.7 million in 2013 to 4.5 million this year, another record total after significant increases in both 2018 and 2017, following the Two Cities One Break campaign featuring Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Now the spotlight is moving from the cities to the desert, with a new campaign focused on the Negev, “the friendly desert” as a break for those looking for winter sunshine.

Next year sees the luxury Six Senses Shaharut hotel opening in the heart of the Negev Desert, with 60 suites and villas as well as a spa, while the ministry is also looking to develop infrastructure as well as increase accommodation for all budgets.

With hiking and biking, plus festivals from film to yoga, desert marathons and Bedouin-style food, it will be marketed to those travellers looking for an active escape, but also in an addition to a break in Eilat, visiting the Dead Sea, the Ramon Crater and Timna Park.

“The desert is the new brand because we feel that Europeans will have to choose an alternative vacation in the winter, an escape to the sun,” Halevi explains. “We feel that the perfect weather we have there, from 15 to 25/30 degrees over the winter, we just have to create a new flight from the UK to the new airport so this is going to be a big success.”

The delayed high-speed rail link connecting Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is also now scheduled to be finished by the end of the year.

Currently travellers can take a highspeed trail from Jerusalem’s Yitzhak Navon Station to Ben Gurion in just over 20 minutes, with a connecting train to Tel Aviv, but the direct link is expected to cut total journey times to under half an hour.

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