?Where to Travel in 2019

The main touring exhibition hits at the IMTM held three weeks ago in Tel Aviv: a summer vacation in Malta, an in-depth visit to Lithuania, a trip to the Dominican Republic, a health holiday in India, and sleeping in a treetop in northern Sweden

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The IMTM annual tourism fair, held for the 25th consecutive time in Tel Aviv, is an excellent opportunity to feel the Israeli tourist's passion for trips abroad, and perhaps even guess what will be the hot destinations for 2019.

Panama dancers. Photo: Ronit Shimron

The youngest participant in the IMTM exhibition. Photo: Ronit Shimron

In the exhibition held about three weeks ago, stalls were set up in which tourism representatives from all over the world promoted their countries. The show also included professional meetings and conferences, which attracted key activists in the global tourism industry. This year there were about 1870 exhibitors from 57 countries, a slight increase compared to last year.

The event was organized by Ortra and Israel Travel News, in cooperation with the Ministry of Tourism and sponsored by the Israel Hotel Association, the Tel Aviv Jaffa Tourism Association, EL AL and the Israel Travel Agents Association.

This exhibition seems a big success. Eyal Shmueli, the exhibition's owner and owner of Israel Travel News, is pleased: "The exhibition has become the main event of the tourism market in Israel, and in this exhibition, in particular, there have been many real businesses. Two days of business. People closed many reservations for this summer. Another success is the many events that took place around the exhibition: Dozens of events, countries, airlines and various workshops."

Eyal Shmueli, IMTM Organizer: "Vietnam is a great destination". Photo: Chen Galili

There was one country that decided not to come this year. Turkey. "They announced that due to the situation at the moment, they couldn't participate in the exhibition, but towards the end of the fair they have already announced that they will come next year," says Shmueli. "The Greeks took their glory, with the biggest stand (120 square meters), because they see Israeli tourists as a great potential for them."

- What characterizes the Israeli tourist that makes him so wanted in the world?

Shmueli: "The European tourist, in contrast to the Israeli, usually travels abroad once a year, preferring to travel to the same place every time. If he loved Spain, he would travel to Spain every year. The Israeli tourist has about three or four vacations a year. The Israeli tourist doesn't limit himself to one destination, and all the time he is looking for new destinations. Moreover, and most importantly for the tourism market: the Israeli tourist is a spendthrift. He likes to spend money abroad. "

- What do you think will be the desired destinations this year?

Shmueli: "New York is usually the No. 1 destination among Israelis, and after that, it looks as though this year it will be Azerbaijan, with its cheap flights, Albania, which is a new destination, Vietnam, has been in Vietnam recently and I enjoyed it."

- What is your favorite personal destination?

Shmueli: "I change the destination every year. I was recently on a month-and-a-half trip to the East: Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines."

- As a publisher of tourism magazines for 35 years, are there any destinations that you didn't visit yet?

Shmueli: "There's a lot more, Antarctica, for example."

Apart from Shmueli's predictions about Azerbaijan, Albania, and Vietnam, where else should we go this year? Our recommendations: Lithuania, Malta, Dominican Republic, and India.

Malta: What is good for the Game of Thrones is good for us too

If you haven't yet visited Malta, you should put it on your dream list. Malta is perfect as an all year round destination, with plenty of events going on to suit everyone’s tastes.

Malta is a small country south of Italy, consisting of three islands. It's true that 450,000 people live in it, but it has everything you want for a great vacation: beautiful beaches, world heritage sites and of course malls for a shopping spree.

Left: Janet Grech Dimech – Malta Tourism Authority, Arthur Grima Malta Tourism Authority, Mary Chacar Malta Embassy in Israel and Pauline Coleiro, Executive Key Account Airmalta. Photo: Ronit Shimron

Janet Grech-Dimech, from the Tourism Authority of Malta, is a welcoming woman with a vast knowledge of her country, whom she enjoys sharing. For example, did you know that the capital, Valletta, was founded by knights?

"We have a national aquarium, beautiful beaches, the village of Popeye, and many sites where the popular series Game of Thrones was filmed," says Grech-Dimech. "We have many museums as well, and Malta is often described as an open museum because the concentration of historical sites and attractions is among the highest in the world. About four years ago we saw a certain decline in Israeli visitors, so two years ago we decided to participate in the tourism exhibition, and to expose Malta for more Israelis."

Indeed, according to her, the number of Israeli tourists has increased in the last two years. "We see Israel as an emerging market. Israelis love shopping, and there is much shopping in Malta. There is also a Jewish tradition in Malta, and nowadays about 200 Jews are living there. That is why we created a unique journey of Jewish roots to Malta."

Which hotels are preferred by Israelis in Malta? It turns out that most Israelis are looking for hotels with a rating of 4 and five stars. "When compared to other European countries, Malta offers good prices," says Grech-Dimech.

Dominican Republic – Country of Happy People

Can't stop dancing. The Dominican Republic's members. Photo: Ronit Shimron

The Dominican Republic couldn't be ignored during the fair. The team members performed on the dance floor, sometimes with dancers from Panama, and swept the Israeli visitors.

The Dominican Republic is also expecting an increase in Israeli visitors. "It's hot all year round," says Carlos Batista of the Dominican Republic's Tourism Authority. "In winter we have 27-28 degrees and 35-37 during summer."

Carlos Batista Dominican Republic Ministry Tourism. Photo: Ronit Shimron

According to him, in 2018 more than 4,000 Israelis visited the republic. "There are Israelis who came to visit from other countries, and for them, there is still no data."

This year, 40,000 tourists from Israel are expected in the Dominican Republic. "We expect 7 million tourists from around the world this year," he sais. "We have high mountains, national parks, and a lot of musicians and dancers. Our name means happy people, and we are indeed happy. Besides, we were among the first to open the gates of the state to the Jews, so we also have a rich Jewish tradition."

Panama dancers are dancing with the Dominican Republic's team. Photo: Ronit Shimron

Belgrade, Serbia – the popular destination for 2018

Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, has become a must-see destination among the Israeli tourists in recent years and therefore won the exhibition as the popular destination for 2018.

Left: Jelena Stankovic, Relations Manager Visit Belgrade, Roni Feldman Open Sky, Tamara Jovanovic To Belgrade, and team member. Photo: Ronit Shimrob

"Serbia is a popular destination in the Balkans," says Jelena Stankovic, director of public relations at the Belgrade Tourism Office. "Belgrade is a wonderful city for a city break all year round. It's a vibrant city with a lot to do. We have festivals, a beautiful ski resort in Kopaonik, and there's also much shopping," she emphasizes with a smile, well aware of the Israeli tourists' desire for shopping. "Belgrade has a famous shopping street with small shops, and there are also large malls. Serbia is also very accessible with six weekly flights, while the frequency of flights increases in the summer."

 (!)Lithuania – Cities, History and 300 Lakes

If we were to compete between the countries that want Israeli tourism, it seems that Lithuania would win. The Lithuanians did a great job of exposing Israeli tourists not only to the main cities but also to nature walks and pastoral countryside.

Vilma Daubariene and Gintare Kavaliunaite Lithuania. About 10,000 Israelis tourists per year. Photo: Ronit Shimron

Vilma Daubariene, Director of Tourism at Go Vilnius: "Today, most of the tourists to Lithuania come from Germany, Italy, Britain, Poland, and Israel, with an average of 10,000 Israelis per year. In 2018 there was an increase of 25% compared to 2017. The average Israeli tourist comes for 6-7 days, and of course, we want to increase the number of Israeli visitors."

Gintare Kavaliunaite, Public Relations Manager at the Tourism Bureau: "One of our goals is to increase the market. We want to expose Vilnius for young people. The younger generation, aged 20-45, doesn't know Lithuania, so it's our primary target audience. Another goal of our, this year, is to hold press tours during April, May, and June.

To the Vilnius Tourism Bureau's website.

Right: Vytis Stelbys, Raimonda Meiduviene Stirnelės viensėdis, Daiva Kuliene,Manager of Moletai Tourism and business information center. Photo: Ronit Shimron

Vytis Stelbys is the chairman of the Lithuanian Rural Tourism Association. Stelbys tells about tourism in the rural area of Moletai district, located about 50 minutes from Vilna. This is a rural area with 300 lakes (!), Where Stelbys and his wife, Sandra, set up a large farm. "People come to us with families for a week or two," he says.

Most of the tourists in the area are from Latvia, Germany, France, and Poland, but many Israelis also visit them. "I invite the Israeli tourists to our holiday lodges and those of our colleagues in the area, where you can enjoy a vacation of relaxation or nature tours in a beautiful landscape."

Cyprus – Why travel to the Hermon if it is easier to reach a ski resort in Cyprus

A surprise waited for us at the stand of Cyprus. Cyprus tourism representative in Israel is an Israeli!

Perhaps that is why so many Israeli tourists are flocking to this beautiful island. Despite that, Cyprus also wants to increase the number of Israeli tourists.

Left: Louisa Varaclas Director-Israel at Cyprus Tourism Organisation and Ayelet Neudorf

Louisa Varaclas: "In the past five years there has been a big jump in the number of tourists from Israel, but why not? Cyprus-Israel relations are excellent; there are about 90 flights a week to Cyprus while a flight takes about 40 minutes."

Louisa was born in Jerusalem, and 25 years ago she opened a representative office in Cyprus. Today she comes to Greece once a year and ten times a year to Cyprus. "In 1997, when we began the bureau, there were no open skies, there were five flights a week and about 7,000 Israeli tourists a year. However, now the situation is different. Israelis love the food, the sea, and the music. Cyprus is a small and accessible country. In the winter Israelis can come and enjoy the snow. We have a ski resort with four cable cars, and it's much easier and faster to reach than to Mount Hermon in Israel.

"There's a lot of shopping, markets, taverns, and museums. There's a medieval castle in Paphos, and now with the open skies, you can find flights for $ 39. I've even seen flights to Paphos for $ 9.99. So you have every reason to visit Cyprus."

Sweden – a hotel on a tree, an ice hotel, and dog-drawn sleds

True, Sweden has a representative in almost every home in Israel in the form of IKEA furniture, but it turns out that Israelis also like to visit it quite a bit. About 22,000 Israelis visited Sweden in 2018. However, this figure doesn't include overnight stays in Airbnb apartments, or day trips in Stockholm.

Ann-Katrin Skerk, Commercial Officer Embassy of Sweden. Photo: Ronit Shimron

Ann-Katrin Skrek, the Swedish embassy's commercial Officer in Israel, is trying to persuade the Israelis to get to know northern Sweden. Skrek spoke with the visitors of the exhibition in excellent Hebrew. Although she grew up in Sweden, she fell in love with an Israeli guy and immigrated to Israel.

According to Skrek the primary goal of the Swedish Tourist Office, in addition to exposing the northern region, is also to encourage tourism of young people and families with children to Sweden.

"Everyone already knows Stockholm, but they don't know what great attractions there are in northern Sweden," she says. "For example a hotel with rooms on treetops, an observation of the northern glamor, a Moose safari, a winter ice hotel, skiing, trekking, dog-drawn sledding and more."

Fiji Islands – music and Kava root drinks

A happy crew arrived from the Fiji Islands. The crew members sat cross-legged on the floor, playing and singing, and in general seemed to enjoy having to sit in a companion, and sip a drink made from the Kava root which was put in a tub.

Fiji crew members. Photo: Ronit Shimron

We met Jerusalem Anemu from the Embassy of Fiji at the stand, which also presented cosmetics and wooden products made by the island's residents. If you want to visit there, a flight from Tel Aviv will bring you to Hong Kong, and from there you can take another trip to the islands.

Jerusalem Anemu, Fiji Embassy. Photo: Ronit Shimron

"About 500 Israelis visited the Fiji Islands last year," says Jerusalem. "Tourism is a major component of the economic life of the Fiji Islands. So more Israeli tourists are good for us."

Tbilisi, Georgia – A boutique hotel with a unique story

Sophie Jgarkava is the CEO of the 46-room Tbilisi Museum Hotel. Jgarkava, equipped with an elegant booklet describing the hotel's story, and dozens of reviews that praise the hotel and the service. The hotel is set in a house used by one of the city's most respected families, the Orbelianis, and it offers excellent dining and spacious rooms.

Sophie Jgarkava, General Manager Museum Hotel, Tbilisi. Photo: Ronit Shimron

Many Israelis visit us because our location is excellent, and we have good reviews. We will welcome more Israelis of course," she says.

Tanzania – Tailor-made Safari Tours

Africa is also waiting for you, judging by the stand of Tanzania. We met Samuel Daniel Diah, owner of Tanzania Travel Company. "My company offers tours for families with children, couples, and singles," he says. "We organize everything, including airport transfers, a safari guide, a mountain tour guide, and camping."

Samuel Daniel Diah, Tanzania Travel & Safari Company. Photo: Ronit Shimron

Who else did we meet at the exhibition?

Lydia Lazzari, Director of sales, inbound Mice/Congress Hilton UK and Ireland, came to Israel for networking meetings with 15 other Representatives from Hilton Europe, Mexico, and Portugal. The Hilton Israel management organized the visit. "Israel is a growing market, and we are interested in increasing awareness of the wide range that the Hilton chain has to offer," she says.

Lydia Lazzari, Director of sales, inbound Mice/Congress Hilton UK&Ireland. Photo: Ronit Shimron

Did you know that Hilton also includes a network of 3-star hotels? Only in London, you will find 43 hotels in different star levels. The Hilton chain now consists of 15 brands with 3-5 star rating.

Biju George, Luxury Ayurveda Treatment Center. Photo: Ronit Shimron

Biju George, Luxury Ayurveda Treatment Center. Photo: Ronit Shimron

Biju George is the international marketing manager of the Somathearram Ayurveda Group in the state of Kerala in southwest India. The group owns and manages several resort villages that are Ayurvedic health centers, a method of treatment of holistic medicine originating in India.

According to George, the Somatheeram resort is the first hospital in the world to serve as a luxury resort. Since its establishment in 1985, the resort has won numerous national and international awards for excellence in Ayurvedic treatments.

George came to Israel to promote Ayurveda health centers. The photos and videos of the center reveal that this is a prestigious health resort offers a vast variety of treatments combined with yoga and meditation exercises, such as a large number of doctors and experts in Ayurveda.

"My great-grandfather was from a family of healers, and it passed from generation to generation," says George. His uncle, Baby Mathew, was the one who set up the family business and ran the village and other successful brands. George himself is a chef by training who's researching ancient recipes. Although he's not a doctor, he exhibits tremendous knowledge of the disease, and treatment for them.

The Somatheeram resort has customers from all over the world when 90% are from Europe. The rest are from Japan, Korea, America, and Canada. Now it is the turn of the Israelis to combine Ayurveda treatments with relaxed recreation.

Prices: 7 nights in the beautiful resort will cost you 1500 EUR per week.

Now, some good news from Poland. Dominik Markowski is the marketing director of the Olsztyn-Mazury Airport in Poland: "I recommend to Israelis to visit the area," he says and hinting about the contacts being made with Sun D'Or to open a direct line from Tel Aviv to the Olsztyn-Mazury Airport.

Dominik Markowski: direct line from Tel Aviv to the Olsztyn-Mazury Airport

Today most of the tourists in the region are from Germany, but Markowski predicts that with the opening of the direct line from Tel Aviv, many Israelis will discover the beauty of the area and its historical value.

Sun D'Or has not yet confirmed the ongoing negotiations.

Carissa Nimah, Chief Marketing Officer Soneva. Photo: Ronit Shimron

Carissa Nimah is the Chief Marketing Officer of Soneva, a company with three prestigious resorts in the Maldives and Thailand. Soneva is the brand of the couple Eva and Sonu Shivdasani. Sonu Shivdasani is a British Indian hotelier who gave Eva an island in the Maldives as a marriage present.

Since then, the gift has been rolled into a luxury resort empire, that hosts celebrities from all over the world like Chris Hemsworth, who plays Thor in Marvel movies, and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Filipa Valente Taste of Lisboa Food Tours. Photo: Ronit Shimron

Filipa Valente, the owner of a food tours company, Taste of Lisboa, is an energy bomb, and she has a secret.

Valente worked for five years at IBM Public Relations. "But I wanted to do something different," she says. "Lisbon has great food, and my tours allow access to all of this. The Portuguese express their feelings through the food, which is a little like in Israel, isn't that? Almost on every occasion of yours, food is served. I love the Israeli vibe."

So what's Valente's secret? It turns out that even though she is fond of food and food tours, she's a lousy cook. Perhaps this is the formula for successful food tours. So when you arrive in Lisbon, don't miss one of Filipa's dining tours!

Please tell us where you plan to travel this year. Also, if you want to visit Vienna, the capital of Austria, you already have an itinerary for a week's stay in the city.

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על אודות רונית שימרון Ronit Shimron

עיתונאית, בלוגרית טיולים (טרוולסט ו-Travelust), ומפתחת אתרים. חובבת טיולים, אדריכלות, קולנוע וספרים. לשעבר עורכת מדור הכלכלה ב"מגפון", עורכת ועיתונאית ב"טלגרף", במקומוני שוקן ו"ידיעות אחרונות". http://travelust.co/
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