TORONTO — The Israel Government Tourist Office (IGTO recently announced the launch of its new campaign – “There’s a bit of Israel in all of us. Come find the Israel in You.”
Based on ads on television and radio, on bus shelters, and in newspapers and trade publications, the campaign will build on an expected record year of travel to Israel, said IGTO head Oded Grofman.
Extrapolating the trend from January to the end of October, 2.4 million travellers are expected this year, Grofman said. As many as 80,000 Canadians are expected in 2011, up from the 74,000 who visited in 2010 and the 61,249 in 2009.
The IGTO has budgeted $1 million on marketing in 2010, $400,00 of which is dedicated to the recently initiated winter campaign, Grofman said.
“This is the last of three phases,” after which Israeli tourism officials will conduct surveys to determine the campaign’s effectiveness, he added.
The Come Find the Israel in You campaign follows first-time visitors to Israel – a couple from New York and a family of four from Texas. Chosen from hundreds of applicants, the visitors toured Israel for 14 days. They reported on their visit on Facebook and Twitter and video was posted on YouTube. They visited Jerusalem, the Galilee, the Negev Desert, the Dead Sea and the Red Sea. “They are ordinary people who wanted to go to Israel for the culture, the history,” Grofman said.
One of their stops was in the Red Sea city of Eilat, where Isrotel, a high-end chain, operates eight hotels.
Eilat is a destination worthy of Canadians’ consideration, said Etty Baruch, Isrotel’s chief adviser for the North American market.
Although distant – by Israeli standards – from the country’s heartland, it has proven a very popular vacation destination for Europeans looking for a warm winter holiday spot, she said. Charter airlines fly directly from Europe into Eilat, she said.
Dinah Kutner, general manager of El Al Airline’s Canadian office, said North American travellers could now fly into Eilat as well, changing planes at Ben-Gurion International Airport.
A video presentation at the IGTO launch that highlighted the Isrotel offerings in Eilat suggested visitors had a wide choice of luxury accommodations to choose from. North Americans are increasingly including Eilat to their Israel visits, adding a side trip to historic Petra, in Jordan, Baruch said.
Many of the accommodations in Eilat are up to North American standards, and some are family-friendly, offering beautiful pool settings, spa treatments and other amenities expected by seasoned travellers, she said.
A new alternative on Isrotel’s roster of hotels is the Beresheet Hotel in Mitzpe Ramon. Located about 85 kilometres south of Be’er Sheva, the facility is located on the heights overlooking the Ramon Crater, a unique geological formation in Israel’s Negev Desert.
People have been flocking to it in large numbers. It has proven so popular that people who fill out response cards are giving it grades of eight and 10 on a scale of one to five, Baruch said.
Of the hotel’s 112 units, 42 come with private pools. Some include butler service; the spa includes a Turkish bath. Some suites are 250 square meters large while the view of the crater is awesome, Baruch said.
“When you see the sun rise and set, you feel you’re next to God when He created the world,” she added.
In addition to Israeli visitors, most clients at Beresheet are North American Zionists who combine a stay there with a visit to Sde Boker, David Ben-Gurion’s home about half an hour away, and Christian visitors come to visit Har Karkom, believed by some to be the biblical Mount Sinai.
As travellers flock to Israel, El Al has benefited.
“Things have been going really well” for El Al this year, said Kutner. It recently concluded an interline agreement with West Jet, which allows for more seamless travel for Canadians to Israel using both airlines. “The numbers are phenomenal,” she said, adding that Israelis now are using Toronto as a hub as they travel to other locations in Canada.
“It’s all very promising,” she added.