Travelers put off Mideast trips

July 23, 2006|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

The conflict between Israel and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah has many travelers putting off trips to the region. Travel companies are mainly accommodating those requests and waiving penalties.

"We've been through this before," said Eileen Hart, vice president of marketing for IsramWorld, one of the largest American operators of tours to Israel. As of Monday, about 25 percent of its scheduled travelers to Israel had canceled and 90 clients already in Israel were rerouted. Instead of visiting Haifa and Tiberias in the north, the group was sent to Eilat in the south. IsramWorld is offering credit toward a future trip through next year to travelers who cancel.

Arie Sommer, Israel's commissioner of tourism to North America, said he was recommending that travelers avoid northern Israel and instead visit places such as Eilat and Jerusalem.

The high-end tour operator Travcoa canceled its October trip to Israel and is letting guests rebook for travel to Israel or other destinations through next year. El Al airlines is waiving change fees, but said it had seen only a few cancellations. Delta, which flies nonstop between Atlanta and Tel Aviv, Israel, is waiving change fees for those flights through July.

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