The opening of the new Ramon Airport near Eilat has not increased the number of air travelers to the city – and according to data from the Airports Authority, the number of visitors flying from the center of the country was down 25% in May compared to that same month a year earlier.
The reduction in the number of travelers flying in from the Tel Aviv area has been going on for months; air travel to Eilat from Ben Gurion and Sdeh Dov Airports was down 10% in the first five months of 2019, compared to the same period a year earlier. In May 2019, 101,505 passengers arrived in Eilat on domestic flights, compared to 134,913 in May 2018. There were also some 300 fewer domestic flights to Eilat in May 2019 compared to a year earlier. In the first five months of this year there were 536,734 passengers on domestic flights to Eilat, compared to 590,000 in January-May 2018.
Things are likely to get even tougher for the Israeli airlines, mostly Israir and Arkia, that operate domestic flights to Eilat. The Authority statistics show that 58% of all passengers on domestic flights to Eilat in May 2019 left from Sdeh Dov Airport in Tel Aviv – which is set to be closed next month. Eilat officials have expressed fears that the closure of the airport will have a negative impact on tourism to the city.
Despite the poor showing for Eilat, tourism in Israel thrived in May, with 440,000 visitors entering the country – 11.1% more than in May 2018, and 26.8% more than a year before that. Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said that “the data shows that the trend in the increase in the number of visitors to Israel continues. We are developing further resources that will increase this number even more and improve the experience of visitors.”