Israelis shun Turkey, tens of thousands head to Greece for holiday season, with Rhodes, Crete and Kos most popular islands.
by Danny Sadeh
Turkey – out, Greece – in. Unofficial data collected by travel agents shows that the Greek islands were a big hit for Israelis during the holidays, replacing Turkey as the most popular tourist destination.
An estimated 300,000 Israelis who have traveled abroad for the holiday season, and some 50,000 of them made Greece and Cyprus their destination of choice. The most popular destinations were Rhodes and Crete, which saw a 60% increase in the number of Israeli visits during the month of September.
"After years of being considered too expensive compared to Turkey's club-hotels, Rhodes and Crete have become extremely sought after," a travel agent told Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper. "The Greeks, on their part, are trying to be accommodating by cutting prices and giving the Israelis what they want more than anything: All-inclusive packages."
Travel agents noted there has been virtually a 500% rise in Israeli bookings to the Island of Kos and a 250% increase in trips to Thessaloniki during the holiday period.
Yossi Petal, director of the Israeli Travel Association, said, "People have quickly gotten over the Turkey problem and found many alternatives. Israelis have spread out across many destinations, but without a doubt the biggest winners have been Greece and Cyprus."
Other destinations that have cashed in on the Turkey boycott during the holiday season were the city of Burgas in Bulgaria, Barcelona, Italy and the United States, particularly New York.
As for Turkey, August saw a 90% drop in Israeli trips to the country compared to August 2009.
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