Israel is fast becoming the hottest new destination for independent travellers, and 2012 has so far seen record numbers of tourists visiting the country, despite current political tensions. Yet high travel costs mean budget travellers are missing out. Created by travel guidebook author Samantha Wilson, VisiTour Pass Israel is a travel discount book that will open Israel up as an affordable destination.
After years of being seen as the place for a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage, Israel is fast becoming the hottest new destination for independent travellers from North America and Europe. Tourists are ditching the organised tours and going it alone in a destination that is a mere 4 hour flight from Europe.
However until now budget travellers have been put off by Israel’s high costs – where a dormitory bed costs $25 (£15) and the cheapest hotel rooms are $100 (£63) per night. VisiTour Pass Israel (www.visitourpass.com) was created by Samantha Wilson, a British guidebook author who has become an authority on writing about Israel, and who has authored guidebooks for Bradt Travel Guides and Thomas Cook Publishing. The book provides 25-50% discounts on many of the country’s top hotels, hostels, attractions, tours and activities. Indeed, VisiTour Pass Israel is so confident that it will save travellers money, that if not they will refund the cost of the book ($75/£45). The question on most people’s lips will be ‘what’s the catch?’. As Samantha Wilson explains “The businesses in the book want to promote the country to independent travellers, and are willing to offer huge discounts to be involved in a project that is the first of its kind in Israel. These businesses were hand-picked to represent the best the country has to offer, chosen from years of research and travel. It is much more than a discount book – it is a guide book that will, with full confidence, save travellers money”.
A recent press release by Israel’s Ministry of Tourism has reported that February 2012 saw an all time monthly high in tourism numbers with 232,000 visitors passing through its doors – an impressive result during a time of political instability and talk of war with Iran. This figure echoes those of recent years. In 2010 Israel welcomed 3.45 million visitors, a 26% increase from the previous year. Of these, 34% travelled independently.
Budget airlines started including Tel Aviv on their schedules around 2008, and today Easyjet, Jet2 and Air Berlin offer return prices to match European destinations. With a flight time of only four hours from the UK, Israel is now accessible and appealing, making it one of the fastest growing independent tourist destinations. Yet despite affordable flights, a trip to Israel doesn’t come cheap. Much of the country’s tourism is comprised of family-run businesses, where eco-tourism, rural pursuits, luxury spas and outdoor adventures form the core interests outside of the historic cities. Scuba diving in the Red Sea, camel trekking in the deserts, kayaking the Jordan River, taking a trip to the Dead Sea or visiting World-class museums are on most visitors bucket lists, yet high costs end up making many of these non feasible. VisiTour Pass Israel’s 2012 edition can easily save a couple $400 (£250) in one week, and with careful planning up to $1,200-1,500 (£750-950) for a two week trip. Indeed, it’s total savings are worth $6,500 (£4,000).