Israelis shun France, Turkey for vacations in Greece, Balkans

Ben Gurion Airport credit: Shutterstock
Ben Gurion Airport credit: Shutterstock

Israelis want to go on vacation to a place where they will feel safe, won't encounter demonstration and don't have to hide Jewish symbols.

Every summer airlines increase the frequency of flights to popular vacation destinations for Israelis. This year, since the war and the Iranian missile attack, international airlines have cut or completely halted flights to and from Israel, and it is not clear when they will return to regular schedules. However, with the summer season here, carriers that do fly to Israel have recognized the potential in the vacuum created, and have begun to increase frequency of flights or added new routes both to previously popular destinations, and to some destinations that Israelis are less familiar with.

In the coming months, airlines will increase the frequency of their flights to Montenegro, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece. Why exactly these destinations? Ophir Tours deputy chairman Yoni Waksman explains that demand for flights abroad has been greatly affected by the war. "You can see a decrease in the number of bookings not only to Turkey, but also to countries like Ireland, France and Spain. Israelis feel less comfortable traveling, want to enjoy freedom without fear of encountering demonstrations or hiding Jewish symbols. People want to go on vacation to a place where they will feel safe. That's why destinations that have higher demand are those that like us more."

Eshet Tours VP Shirley Cohen Orkaby agrees that personal security is one of the main considerations for Israelis when choosing a vacation, but not only. According to her, the proximity of the destinations and the price of the flights also play a major role in choosing the destination. She says, "Israelis like short flight times, and the matter of the price is also more relevant because we have a very low supply of flights (which raises the price), and significantly compared to what we knew previously."

Rise in demand to Balkan countries

Cohen Orkaby says, "The Balkan countries have come in very strong this year. An example of this is Montenegro, which in recent years has enjoyed a 'tourism boom' and massive European, American, Chinese and Israeli tourist traffic. In 2017, the country joined the NATO alliance and moved from Russian hegemony to Western hegemony, which increases tourism traffic to it from all over the world.

"Montenegro was attractive for many years to the Russians who filled occupancy there. Since the war, Russians feel less comfortable in many places, and the destination became available to Israeli travelers. This provides an alternative to Budapest, for example, which has become very expensive. Montenegro has not yet become more expensive, it allows for a city vacation, backpacking, trips and good food."

Montenegro is only about a two-hour flight from Israel. The capital city of Podgorica is constantly growing and according to Eshet Tours data, over the last two years the company has sent about 10,000 Israelis to the destination every year. This month, Neos and Corendon Airlines started operating four weekly flights to Montenegro, including three weekly flights to the capital city and a weekly flight to the coastal town of Tivat on Wednesdays. The flights will continue until after the holidays at the end of October, and return fares start at $299.

Also in the Balkans, El Al unit Sun D'Or, has begun marketing a new route to Belgrade in Serbia over the summer. According to the company's announcement, "Opening of the line has been made possible due to the signing of a leasing agreement for a third plane with Klasjet" The price of a round trip fare starts at $295.

Israeli carrier Israir has introduced two new routes to other countries in the Balkans including four weekly flight to Burgas in Bulgaria and three weekly flight to Bucharest in Romania. Fares to Burgas start at $255 return and to Bucharest $195 return. Israir has also increased the number of flights on routes to Varna in Bulgaria to five weekly flights, to Lubljana in Slovenia to three weekly flights and to Montenegro to five weekly flights.

Greek islands seeing record demand

This year is also seeing a record number of flights leaving Israel for the Greek islands. Cohen Orkaby explains that since Antalya in Turkey has been taken off the Israeli tourism map, due to the deteriorating relations with Turkey, the Greek islands offer a very attractive vacation experience. "Recently, islands that were less familiar to the Israeli public, who already know Rhodes and Crete well, were opened up. Among the destinations to which direct flights have been launched are Santorini, the Peloponnese and Corfu, which the Israeli public already knows but with a lower profile."

Among the companies that have added flights to the Greek islands is Sun D'Or, which will operate flights to 6 destinations in the country, and recently expanded its operations with the addition of two new routes to Santorini and the Peloponnese starting at $239 per round trip.

Arkia is operating for the first time flights to the island of Lefkada, in western Greece, starting from $799 dollars round trip. In addition, it has increased the frequency of flights to Rhodes, Crete, Larnaca, Corfu, Kos, Mykonos, and Kalamata. Israir has also increased the frequency of flights to Crete and Corfu.

"Naturally, we are seeing an increase in the frequency of flights in accordance with the increase in demand for certain destinations," notes Ofakim Travel & Tours CEO Revital Ben-Natan. "We also see an increase among relevant connection flights, such as the routes to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, through which many Israelis choose to reach Thailand." flyDubai did not stop its flights to Israel after the war, and currently operates six daily flights.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - - on June 19, 2024.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2024.

Ben Gurion Airport credit: Shutterstock
Ben Gurion Airport credit: Shutterstock
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