Two new transportation developments are helping to lure foreign visitors to quality hotels and attractions — including uniquely Israeli epicurean sites — in what was once considered the outer limits of the Jewish state’s tourism industry: the extension of the Trans-Israel Highway (Highway No. 6) from the center of the country into the heart of northern Israel, and El Al’s recent introduction of daily flights from Ben-Gurion Airport to the southern Red Sea resort city of Eilat.
However, many hotel and storeowners in Israel’s periphery have yet to take English-language business cues from their colleagues in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
This summer, continuing what has been a strong year for foreign tourism to Israel, thousands of English-speaking tourists flocked to destinations that had been popular with the local Israeli population, but were relatively unknown to Anglo tourists.
One such spot is the Galita boutique chocolate and liqueur factory (www.Galita.co.il) in Kibbutz Degania-Beit, located near downtown Tiberias in northern Israel. Said a worker at Galita: “We were caught by surprise by the sheer numbers of English-speaking Jewish tourists and Christian groups from America who came to our store, requesting product brochures in English and access to an English website, which we still don’t have. It’s a good thing we feature a movie about the origins of chocolate in English that we can show to Anglo tourists.”
More tourist savvy (though not in the north) is an English-speaking proprietor, Adit Schneider, who recently opened Aditta’s, (www.Adittas.com), the first “all-Gluten Free” health food store along the trendy Namal Tel Aviv boardwalk.
“The summer and fall tourist seasons attract hundreds of thousands of English and French speaking tourists,” she told The Jewish Week. “If you don’t display English signs, brochures or websites, you are literally throwing away thousands of dollars away in business. During the past few months alone, hundreds of youngsters on the Taglit-Birthright Israel tourist trail patronized my store because they were able to see the signs and products in English. Yes, even a specialized food store can be a legitimate tourist attraction, based on curiosity and dietary needs.”
And speaking of food, Tnuva, Israel’s largest food conglomerate, which sells dozens of its products at metro New York area supermarkets, is surely benefiting from the extension of Highway 6; it actively promotes its popular visitor’s center at Alon Tavor on its Hebrew-language website (www.Tnuva.co.il). Alon Tavor, which is located just north of Afula in the Lower Galilee region (accessible by car or bus via Highways No. 6 or 65), is home to the largest state-of-the-art dairy production facility in the Middle East.
The two-hour tour, which costs around $5 per person, is geared towards children (5 and older) who wish to see how a variety of products are made along the high-tech assembly line. The fun part of the tour centers on a simulator ride, where kids are propelled into the virtual world of Karlo, the feisty feline who represents the image of the company’s line of Israeli dessert products. The kids also don’t have to speak Hebrew in order to enjoy the various tempting tastings, which conclude the culinary adventure.
El Al’s recent introduction of three-times-a-day jet service to Eilat from Ben-Gurion Airport, which began on Aug. 1, is a boon for major hotels in Israel’s southernmost resort city. (El Al is offering a special $40 fare from Ben-Gurion to Eilat as a connecting flight from a U.S. city [www.elal.com]).
“This is one of the most important developments for the future of foreign tourism in Eilat, since arriving American tourists now have the option of a true connecting flight via the same carrier, which was not available until now,” said Eyal Monta, director of the Eilat Princess Hotel. “This development will also make it easier for travel agents and tour operators to add Eilat as a fun destination for couples and families alike.”