Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.
“Canada is back on the horse,” said Gal Hana, consul for tourism and director for Canada at the Israel Ministry of Tourism (IMOT), commenting on Israel’s recovery in Canadian arrivals.
Meeting with trade media at Israel’s consulate offices in downtown Toronto on Monday (March 20), Hana, alongside Eyal Carlin, commissioner for North America at the IMOT, shared the latest on the Middle Eastern country that sits on the Mediterranean Sea – and there’s good news.
Despite there being fewer direct routes between Canada and Israel compared to pre-pandemic times, Canadian arrivals are still coming in strong.
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In 2019, arrivals from Canada sat at roughly 100,000 and, these days, Canadian traffic is trending just below that mark – five per cent from 2019’s figures, Hana said.
The post-COVID recovery has been consistent, Mr. Carlin added. “We don’t take anything for granted,” he said.
"Exactly Like Nowhere Else"
Israel’s plan for 2023 is to be as visible as possible in both consumer and trade spaces.
The tourism office has hit the ground running with the launch of a multi-platform campaign, called "Exactly Like Nowhere Else,” which spotlights Israel's uniqueness as a destination that also fosters personal connections.
The brand spot – a series of short videos that can be viewed on YouTube – zeroes in on memorable experiences, highlighting a range of products travel advisors and operators can sell.
Though aimed at consumers, the idea is for travel advisors to use this content as an additional resource for selling travel to Israel.
Something different each time
Israel, which celebrates its 75th anniversary of its founding this year, is a popular faith-based destination for many Jews, Christians and Muslims.
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But what the IMOT has been pushing in recent years is the country’s potential as leisure destination for luxury and MICE markets.
From motorcycle tours to culinary adventures (The Michelin Guide will soon announce its first stars in Israel), to trips for women travelling solo, the dynamic destination offers a range of experiences, for all types of clients.
There’s new and restored national parks, such as Sussita (Hippos), a capital in the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods; Tel Lachish (the site of the biblical city of Lachish, second in the Kingdom of Judah only to Jerusalem); and Migdal Tsedek, which has an ancient fortress and tells the story of the modern quarry industry and heritage of Jewish stonecutters.
There are also famous holy sites, such as the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque.
But Israel promises something different with each visit.
“People come and have their staples,” Carlin said. “But they’ll come back for a second or third time to see what they missed.”
Israel Travel Specialist program
Monday’s meeting was also held to announce Israel’s new specialist program, which will launch next week.
The learning tool for the trade is designed to help travel advisors expand their knowledge on Israel, across a variety of topics, including faith-based travel, multi-generational/heritage travel, outdoor and active travel and food, wine and culture.
Niches like this are also informing Israel’s travel agent FAM trips, which are being reworked to focus on areas of expertise and involve select partners in destination, Carlin explained.
Israel needs travel advisors and specialists, Hana said, noting how it’s a destination that can’t be sold by an OTA or artificial intelligence.
The destination, therefore, provides agents with an opportunity to break away from “the obvious,” like all-inclusive sun vacations, and sell a unique product that automated technologies can’t.
“If you sell the obvious, the obvious is that you’ll be gone,” Hana said.
A new agent-focused website is now live at Agents.Israel.Travel, offering useful tools that travel pros can use to market Israel to their clients, from itinerary ideas to accommodations to contacts for local tourism boards.
Israel has also been focused on teamwork – the tourism office, in recent years, has teamed up with other countries, such as Portugal and Greece, to promote multi-destination travel – a trend that Hana says is heating up.
Meanwhile, lift from Canada to Israel will ramp up in the coming months.
Air Canada flies five times a week from Toronto to Tel Aviv and, starting in May, it will launch regular seasonal service out of Montreal until at least October.
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