Nightlife and cuisines entice outbound to Israel; connectivity needs to be addressed

More Indians were beginning to take to Israel as awareness about its thriving nightlife and diverse cuisines grew among the outbound, but owing to deficient direct connectivity and offerings – most travel agents offer Holy Land tours which has limited traction –bilateral footfalls were not commensurate to the long-prevailing mutual bonhomie between the two nations, detailed Hassan Madah, Director, Israel National Tourism office in India and Philippines – Israel Ministry of Tourism. Excerpts of the interaction:

hassan-madah-israelHow is the Indian outbound shaping up? What are some key trends therein?

We will continue seeing the growth in the outbound market. People nowadays see the travel as part of their life and this trend will grow more in the coming years. India is opening to business and investors from abroad and that will create more business travel also. In addition, more vacation options are now available in the market and that will create a demand. Also, more airlines are flying in and out, beside the growth of local airlines. Looking at it, all together, we will see growth in all segments.

What is the principal driver of tourism into Israel from Indian shores? Is it leisure or MICE driven, or a mix of both? How about tapping the wedding segment? Countries like Jordan are pulling out all the stops to woo this lucrative segment. Your thoughts.

The main principal is the history and the heritage of the land but also other segments are growing and we are promoting that – MICE and Leisure, especially nightlife, wellness, spa and adventure. Regarding the wedding segment, we are promoting that too and we will do more in the future. It is in our plans. Meanwhile the promotion is done more for honeymooners.

What is the current consumer profile of the Indian outbound? Are families travelling or is it more of young travellers?

We are seeing an increase of families since we launched our campaign last summer and also younger crowd. I can say it is a mix. Few years back we had mainly old people travelling for pilgrimage, so the families and the young crowd in general were unaware of the attractions and the facilities that are there in the country. Israel had one of the best nightlife scenes in the world and one of the best cuisines and more. The perception has changed and more and more people are exploring the country.

How are you strengthening your distribution channels? How are you involving online players? How important are OTAs for you in the larger scheme of things?

OTA’s as we all know, has changed the game and we partnered with few in the world like Expedia and TripAdvisor for a worldwide campaign. In India, we also tied up with some, like Ezeego1 for a joint promotion and we are planning to tie up with others also. On the other hand, we are not neglecting traditional travel agencies and we have promotion activities with them too.

Israel and India have shared admirable people-to-people relations for decades, but that, unfortunately, has not manifested into commensurate bilateral footfalls. How can this anomaly be addressed? There is decent air-connectivity with EI AI, The Ethiopian, Turkish Airlines and others in fray. As an industry insider, what do you reckon is holding tourism back between the two nations?

The people to people connection is indeed great and I can feel it where ever I go in the country. The tourism sector was not picking up because of few issues, even though, India was always number 1 source from Asia and only last year China taken over. First, the connectivity is still not the best since ELAL is flying only 3-4 time a week and the connection with Ethiopian and Turkish make a journey of 7-8 hours into 10+ hours. This is the reason that we need another airline to fly direct into Israel. Second, local travel agents are not offering enough packages to Israel. They all offer Holy Land tour, which is a pilgrimage tour. Majority of the people in India will not be interested in that segment and agents are not offering other options to travellers. Thirdly, the perception is Israel is not safe etc., which is completely false. Compared to many other countries, Israel is safer than majority of them. It is just the media that covers each and every incident and exaggerates in the coverage. Then people tend to think that it is not safe. For example, only in the States you have more murders in a year than all the Israelis that died in all the wars since the 60’.

What are your key markets from India? Are you getting much of your traffic pre-dominantly from tier-1 cities, or have you seen incremental gains from other set of cities in the country, too?

It depends on the segment. Pilgrimage more from the south. Leisure more from tier-1 cities and MICE from all over the country.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *