Reeling from nearly four months of bloodshed, Israel hopes to salvage its devastated tourism industry with a campaign to attract Jews, Christian evangelicals and European sun worshipers.
The Israeli-Palestinian violence that has claimed about 370 lives has prompted a U.S. State Department warning, renewed in January, against travel to the Holy Land and has damaged tourism, new figures show. Travel to Israel in the last three months of 2000 was down by more than 50 percent compared with the same period the previous year.
The State Department, in its Jan. 12 announcement, "warns U.S. citizens to defer travel to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza" because of "a heightened threat of terrorist incidents." It urges Americans to avoid shopping areas, malls, public buses and bus stops, crowded areas and demonstrations.
Israeli officials denounced the warning as unfair. "It is more extreme and more harsh than the reality," said Oren Drori of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.
Mindful that most tourists are still reluctant to travel here, the ministry has scaled back its publicity campaigns and instead is wooing specific audiences with direct mail and targeted advertising. Israel is spending about $1 million in the United States to promote "solidarity" tours for sympathetic Jews and evangelical Christians, Drori said.
The cost of changing your mind
What travel cost is going up 100 percent in a little more than three years? It's the fee to make changes in your "nonrefundable" airline ticket.
On Jan. 19, Continental raised the so-called change fee to $100 per ticket, a $25 increase, for travel in the United States and other areas of the Western Hemisphere. It last raised the fee, charged for changing itineraries or canceling discounted tickets favored by leisure travelers, from $50 on Oct. 30, 1997. The airline's fee for changes on tickets to Europe remains $100, said spokeswoman Sarah Anthony.
American Airlines raised its change fee from $75 to $90; Delta raised its to $100 as well.
Anthony said Continental raised the fee to "make it commensurate with the service provided" and to "cover revenue loss associated with unused inventory" when seats are held for customers. Coincidentally, the airline simultaneously cut commissions to travel agents who change customers' tickets, from $25 to $15 per ticket.
Also, the Air Transport Association reported that the average price for a one-way, 1,000-mile U.S. airline ticket in coach rose 6.6 percent last year, to $130.28, while the average first-class ticket dropped 6.3 percent to $250 in 2000. The group represents 23 U.S. and five international passenger and cargo carriers.
Southwest to pull out of Frisco
Starting March 5, Southwest Airlines no will longer fly to and from San Francisco International Airport and will increase service to the California cities of Oakland, San Jose and Sacramento, the company announced last week. Customers with tickets to San Francisco can rebook at no extra charge or get refunds, said spokeswoman Ginger Hardage.
The airport handles only 14 of Southwest's 2,700 daily flights. Still, it means that the airline, which claims more than 50 percent of the intrastate market in California, won't fly to one of the state's signature cities.
In announcing the switch, Southwest CEO Herbert D. Kelleher took a shot at San Francisco International Airport's reputation for late flights, saying that operating there "produces a disproportionate number of flight delays rippling across our system."
Southwest currently flies to San Francisco nonstop from only two cities, San Diego and Phoenix. From Los Angeles, it serves the San Francisco Bay Area via Oakland.
Disney World pulls plug on parade
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) -- Walt Disney World is pulling the plug -- for a second time -- on its popular nightly Main Street Electrical Parade.
The 20-minute parade will have its last run at the Magic Kingdom on April 1. It will be replaced by "SpectroMagic," a nighttime show that is returning to the park on April 2 and will feature holographic images, fiber optics and liquid-nitrogen smoke.