Israelis Travel To SA Despite Ill Will, South Africans Travel To Israel Because Of It

Israelis Travel To SA Despite Ill Will, South Africans Travel To Israel Because Of It

Israel and South Africa have poor relations, but travel-hungry Israelis didn’t seem to mind that in the second half of 2015, judging from a 15 percent increase in Israeli arrivals to South Africa, according to a report in TourismUpdate.

Tanzania has been a popular destination for Israelis, while South Africa saw a dip in the Israeli market, said Terry Kessel, managing director at Israel-based Diesenhaus Travel. South Africa is becoming fashionable again with Israelis, Kessel said. Israelis have started inquiring again about travel to South Africa.

In October, the African National Congress National General Council recommended that travel to Israel be discouraged unless it promotes solidarity with the Palestinian struggle, IndependentOnline reported.

ANC opposition party leaders including Mosiuoa Lekota — president of Congress of the People — were criticized when Israel sponsored them on a visit the Middle Eastern country.

The Israeli government uses such visits to legitimize its occupation of Palestine, according to South African politician Ronnie Kasrils.

Israel isn’t the only market that improved for travel to South Africa. The first nine months of 2015 were generally disastrous when it came to the overseas tourism market, Traveller24 reported.

The fourth quarter provided relief . Travel to South Africa improved significantly and Cape Town and KwaZulu-Natal reported record-breaking holiday seasons.

Recovery in the overseas tourism market showed great improvements in November with 6.4 percent growth recorded and 6 percent for December 2015 compared to the same months in 2014, according to Lee-Anne Bac, advisory director with South African verification service Grant Thornton, Traveller24 reported.

Israel is a lucrative market for South Africa, Kessel said. Israelis tend to travel for long periods — 10-to-21 days — and book travel far in advance. Their itineraries span large areas of the country and its neighbors — Kruger National Park, Durban, Cape Town, the Garden Route, Swaziland and the Victoria Falls.

Because there are a lot of group bookings of families and friends travelling from Israel, this market was affected by visa regulations for travelling minors, Kessel said.

El Al has direct flights between Tel Aviv and Johannesburg with connections through Turkish Airline and Ethiopian Airlines.

Israeli interest in South Africa is driven by word of mouth, but also in part by the weakened rand, Kessel said. Reasonable prices and the level of service are big attractions.

A deteriorating relationship between Israel and South Africa has prompted some Jewish organizations to try and bridge the divide.

In an effort to help South Africans understand “the complexity of Israel’s situation on the ground,” eight South African economists, professors and journalists went to Israel on a week-long trip paid for by the South African Zionist Federation and World Zionist Organization, TimesofIsrael reported.

The itinerary for the Feb. 7-14, 2016 trip was geared for South Africans who grew up with words like “apartheid,” “racism,” and “segregation” in the context of apartheid South Africa — and have seen those terms applied to Israel, according to TimesofIsrael.

In Israel, the South Africans heard testimony from a former PLO journalist and Israeli-Arab who told them the Palestinian leadership was to blame for the ongoing conflict. That same day they visited Ramallah, where Palestinian Authority officials told them that Israel was responsible.

Relations between the two countries are poor. The University of Johannesburg severed ties with Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in 2011. South Africa temporarily pulled its ambassador from Israel after the Gaza flotilla raid in 2010. In 2006, the Congress of South African Trade Unions joined a boycott of Israeli products.

The eight South African opinion leaders said the trip gave them a better understanding of the complexities of Israel, and better equipped them to discuss it.

“I’m going home with a feeling that I can comment and write about what is truly happening in Israel with some degree of authoritative basis,” said Temba Nolutshungu, director of the Free Market Foundation, an independent public-benefit organisation founded in 1975 to promote an open society, the rule of law, and economic and press freedom.

“Our views were broadened. It was such an enriching week,” said Rabelani Dagada, a professor at Wits Business School.