For many Israeli tourists, a shopping spree at the “duty-free” is an obligatory part of their international travel experience – but that privilege will soon become available to Israelis who choose to remain in the country, too. Beginning next year, the new Eilat International Airport will open, and along with it the Ilan and Assaf Ramon Terminal – and when it does, Israelis who fly from Ben Gurion Airport to Eilat will be able to shop duty free as well.
On Wednesday, the Transport Ministry opened the first of some 30 tenders for services at the Eilat Airport. The tenders will allow retailers, restauranteurs and other service providers to bid on the opportunity to open shops and provide services to Israeli and international travelers at the airport. Duty-free products, such as tobacco, alcohol, food, clothing and other items, will be available at Eilat Airport as they are in Ben Gurion, with the difference that Israelis will be able to buy them there without having to travel abroad.
Transport Minister Yisrael Katz said that “the objective of this program is to further strengthen Eilat economically, and to provide an incentive to Israelis to prefer Eilat over foreign vacation destinations. I believe that, indeed, many Israelis will choose Eilat.”
Eilat is already seen as a “discount capital” for Israelis. Purchases made in Eilat are exempt from the 18-percent Value Added Tax, and many Israelis take the opportunity of an Eilat vacation to buy big-ticket items, like laptops or mobile devices.
The new airport is being built about 30 minutes north of Eilat, and will be able to handle two million travelers a year. The airport, once finished, will have cost NIS 1.7 billion all told. The airport, said Katz, will “create hundreds of new jobs directly and many more indirectly.” In addition, the new airport will free up prime real estate in the most desirable location of Eilat, after the old airport is shut down and construction on a major tourist center on its former location commences.