update deskIsrael at War

Israeli tourism chief calls on US airlines to restore flights

The war continues to take its toll on Israel’s tourism industry, with the country seeing only 58,600 tourist visits in January, compared to the 257,400 who arrived during the same month last year.

The departure hall at Ben-Gurion Airport, April 4, 2023. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.
The departure hall at Ben-Gurion Airport, April 4, 2023. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.

The director general of Israel’s Tourism Ministry on Tuesday called on U.S. companies to restore flights to the Jewish state despite the ongoing war against Hamas.

“As a symbol of the unbreakable friendship between the American and Israeli peoples, I am truly hopeful that the U.S. airlines will soon restore their flights to Israel,” Danny Shahar said during a meeting in Jerusalem with delegates from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

According to a report, American Airlines will only resume flights to Tel Aviv beginning Oct. 26, whereas Delta Airlines has a “tentative plan” to resume non-stop routes to Israel on April 30. United Airlines flights to the country will reportedly remain suspended “until conditions allow them to resume.”

By comparison, the Lufthansa Group resumes service to Ben-Gurion Airport on Jan. 8, with Air France following suit on Jan. 24, according to the report.

Israeli national carrier El Al along with Arkia Israeli Airlines and Israir Airlines have maintained most of their flights throughout the war. Several international airlines have likewise maintained virtually uninterrupted service, including Etihad Airways from the United Arab Emirates and Ethiopian Airlines.

On Tuesday, Shahar urged the delegates to “come with your communities to visit Israel, continue to strengthen and get stronger. Israel will always be the home of the Jewish people.

“Your support for Israel, from time immemorial, as the heads of the Jewish communities in the United States, takes on new validity and meaning in these difficult times,” he continued. “You are true partners. The tourism industry relies on the visits of our Jewish brothers and sisters from around the world, who are visiting Israel right now.”

The war continues to take its toll on Israel’s tourism industry, with the country seeing only 58,600 tourist visits in January, compared to the 257,400 who arrived during the same month last year, marking a 77% decrease.

According to monthly figures released by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), only 500 single-day visits were registered, compared to 14,000 in January 2023, a 96% decrease.

Also, far fewer Israelis are traveling abroad. In January 2024, 281,400 Israelis traveled to other countries, down from 611,100 in January 2023, a decrease of more than 50%.

Israeli Tourism Minister Haim Katz departed for Nashville, Tennessee, on Sunday, to participate in the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) Christian Media Convention.

Ahead of his departure, Katz expressed gratitude for the evangelical community’s support for Israel, especially after Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre. He also emphasized that the safety of tourists remains a top priority and that most Christian sites in Israel are operating as usual despite the war.

“The American market is the largest source market for Israel, with the highest figures for incoming tourism, and [is] very significant for the Israeli economy. Demand from the U.S. is at a peak. We must maintain the momentum, and especially in light of the war, encourage as much as possible tourism to Israel,” he added.

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