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Wednesday,  June 19, 2024 5:49 AM 

“From bucket list to A-list:” Israel continues to grow as a destination

“From bucket list to A-list:” Israel continues to grow as a destination
Of Israel Tourism: Eyal Carlin, tourism commissioner – North America & Gal Hana, consul, director for Canada.
Blake Wolfe

Blake Wolfe is an award-winning journalist and editor, who joined PAX after nearly 10 years in Canada’s newspaper industry. In addition to PAX, his work has been featured in publications such as the Metroland Media group of newspapers and the Toronto Sun.

With 2019 a record tourism year for Israel, the destination is looking to grow even more in 2020, particularly in the Canadian market.

Speaking with trade media ahead of a presentation to agents, the Israel Ministry of Tourism’s North American Commissioner Eyal Carlin said that even though 2020 has just begun, the organization is looking at another banner year for arrivals. Last year, the destination welcomed a record 4.5 million tourists – representing a 10.6 per cent year-over-year increase – while arrivals for December alone broke a monthly record with 358,300 visitors, an increase of 10 per cent compared to 2018.

READ MORE: Faith and leisure go hand in hand, says Israel Ministry of Tourism's new Canadian director

While the country’s current elections have locked additional tourism marketing funds for the time being, Carlin said there’s plenty of outreach set to take place in Canada this year, part of “an increased involvement in the Canadian market,” following the arrival of Gal Hana, the ministry’s new director for Canada.

According to Carlin, the Canadian strategy will incorporate both B2B and B2C approaches, including an upcoming $350,000 consumer-facing visual marketing campaign and increased partnerships with Canadian suppliers, including a major marketing agreement to be announced in the near future.

Plans to target the growing markets of Quebec and Western Canada are also in the works, Hana said. While Air Transat cancelled its Montreal-Tel Aviv service after just one year, Quebec remains an important market for the destination, he said.

Diversity is key

According to Carlin, the key to Israel’s recent tourism successes is the diversification of product. While Israel’s travel offering was once centred around history and spirituality, the product has since expanded to incorporate many more facets of the destination, from gastronomy to adventure travel to a growing MICE market. In the case of Israel’s growing tech sector, there’s overlap between these categories, Hana said, with a number of local tour operators visiting these sites.

“We’re working with tour operators to diversify their Israel portfolios,” Carlin said. “Things like adventure and cuisine are now being presented as products in and of themselves, not just a part of an historic or spiritual journey.”

Diversification is also being seen in the number and origin of carriers flying to Israel, he added, along with the destination’s hotel offerings, ranging from boutique properties to luxury five-star accommodations, drawing names such as Accor to develop in the country, said Jerry Adler, deputy director and director of PR & communications for the ministry’s Canadian office.

“Israel has gone from bucket list to A-list,” Adler said of the destination’s growing popularity.

Specialist program on the horizon

For travel agents, an Israel specialist program is currently in development, Carlin said, adding that in the meantime, agents are welcome to use the ministry’s site as a resource, citing the sharable content “produced with the trade in mind,” such as embeddable videos.

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