While most Israelis favor nearby destinations and modest hotels, others are booking expensive jaunts to unexpected and faraway locales.
Ever hear of the 27 tiny Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the Indian Ocean? How about the Singaporean island resort of Sentosa, or Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan?
According to statistics from hotel metasearch site HotelsCombined, Israeli travelers have been booking trips to these and other remote parts of the world in increasing numbers since the high travel season began in August.
Ayal Segal, Israeli market manager for HotelsCombined, tells ISRAEL21c that most Israelis booking through the Australia-based international website for the summer and fall holiday season chose the perennially popular destinations of London, Prague, Budapest, Bucharest, Amsterdam, Rome, Berlin or New York.
Antalya, a Turkish resort city, also is very popular with Israeli families looking for a high-quality, low-cost experience despite Israel’s diplomatic tensions with Turkey, says Segal. Dushanbe and Rhodes are frequently on Israelis’ travel lists too.
“The new popular destinations this year are Warsaw and Cyprus. We think it’s because there are new flights from Israel that started last year and people are hearing about it. Cyprus inquiries alone went up 400 percent,” Segal says.
But while the average Israeli is booking accommodations for $100 per night – often at an apartment rather than a 2- or 3-star hotel — those with the means and curiosity are opting for exotic or unexpected vacation destinations and spending a whole lot more.
An ultra-luxe suite in a resort hotel in Sentosa — the upper level has an outdoor patio and Jacuzzi and the lower level offers a private underwater view into the adjacent world’s largest aquarium – costs about $4,100 per night.
There were also Israelis dropping in the range of $3,000 to lay their head on a pillow at the Ritz Paris, the Plaza Athénée in Manhattan, or Amsterdam’s 11-unit Grand Canal House Suites (including butler service).
More uncommon destinations include Cocos Islands, a pristine Australian territory that offers a 5-star hotel without a dining room, spa or pool; and Saint Kitts and Nevis, a dual-island Caribbean nation.
“It seems Israelis know about unusual destinations and are looking for them,” says Segal.
“We saw many bookings in Africa — Zambia, Congo, Liberia, Swaziland, Burkina Faso, Togo, and São Tomé and Príncipe. We also saw bookings in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Grenada, New Caledonia, Northern Mariana Islands, Trinidad, Brunei, Palau, Curacao and the Solomon Islands.”
Meanwhile, inbound Israeli tourism is on the rise, with a 26% increase in the first half of 2017 compared to the same time period in 2016.