U.S. tourism to Israel has declined slightly in reaction to the violent clashes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, according to Israeli travel professionals here.
But continued clashes could cause a dramatic drop-off in visits to the Jewish state, Moshe Shoshani, Israel’s commissioner of tourism to the United States, said in an interview.
“The problem that we are facing is basically an image problem. Tourists are not afraid of going to Israel for safety reasons, but they might not want to travel because they perceive Israel’s actions negatively,” Shoshani said.
He said the disturbances have not directly resulted in “a significant number of cancellations of flights to Israel.” However, he added the number of new reservations “is slightly less than what we expected.”
Aviva Lavi, a spokeswoman for El Al Israel Airlines, said El Al has received about 1,000 new reservations in each of the last few weeks, “which is slightly higher” than the previous year at the same period.
She said El Al bookings for February and March 1988 are better than they were last year. The reason may be the celebration of Israel’s 40th anniversary, she noted.
According to Shoshani, about 40,000 Americans visited Israel last December, when the Palestinian unrest began, an increase of 16 percent compared with the same month of the previous years.
Shoshani said that 1987 was one of the best years for tourism to Israel, with more than 1.5 million visitors. About 350,000 of them came from the United States, Shoshani noted.
The commissioner said that the forecast for 1988 is about 1.7 million tourists, 400,000 of them from the United States.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.