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Israelis Overcharging Tourists?

Israelis Overcharging Tourists?

Even as Israeli officials were basking in figures indicating that tourism to Israel this Passover would exceed last year’s numbers by more than 20 percent, an Israeli newspaper investigation (along with this week’s suicide bombing in Tel Aviv) could damage future tourism.

Yediot Achronot reported that major resort hotels in Eilat and Tel Aviv routinely charge foreign tourists 80 percent more than Israelis. It quoted one hotel owner as saying that foreign tourist agencies had demanded surcharges that were passed along to travelers.

Arie Sommer, Israel’s tourism commissioner for North and South America, deplored the practice and said the Tourism Ministry "cannot allow tourists to pay more than Israelis." He said he understood the price difference was because prices had come down since tourist agencies booked hotels and that the lower prices were not passed on.

"We will investigate after the holidays," Sommer promised. "We will [soon] make sure this does not happen again."

He said there were so many tourists in Israel for Passover this year that it was difficult getting a hotel room. All of the tourist activity has caused several airlines to consider service to Tel Aviv.

Sommer said Delta Airlines, which last month inaugurated nonstop service to Tel Aviv from Atlanta, is now considering adding nonstop service from New York. In addition, he said Arkia Airlines, an Israeli domestic carrier, is considering starting charter flights between here and Tel Aviv.

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