What’s a country to do when the fear of terrorism has tourists staying away? Why turn to Groupon, of course.
The tech-savvy state of Israel today rolled out a great deal in partnership with the online bargain site and a Philadelphia-area tour operator. They’re offering seven nights, eight days, and 11 meals in the Holy Land—including air, hotel, six breakfasts, two dinners, and tours—for just $999.
It’s the country’s first partnership with Groupon—“a great deal, but only for a limited number of people,” a spokesperson at the Israel Tourism Ministry in New York told TMR, as it is limited to the first 1,500 to respond. The promotion will run for two weeks, for travel in the traditionally slow tourist months of January and February 2016. Prices are based on double occupancy with departures from New York JFK.
For Gate1, Groupon means business
On the back end, tours will be fulfilled by Gate1 Travel of Fort Washington, PA. It has been running three to five packages a week on Groupon for some time, and is “probably the most aggressive tour operator” on the site, said vice president Marty Seslow.
“We have everything from two nights in Dublin to two weeks India up there, every product in our arsenal,” he said.
Seslow declined to cite his total sales on Groupon, but noted that “we wouldn’t be there if we didn’t find it to be a good market.”
As for the Israel promotion, Seslow said, it is not a package he is offering to the general public, but rather one specifically designed in partnership with the State of Israel and Groupon, with the trio of partners seeing “an opportunity, where sales were challenging, to sell product at an inspirational price point.”
Despite the news reports of an uptick in terrorist attacks in Israel, he said, Gate1 has received only “a handful of calls with concerns” and no cancellations.
“You cannot ever guarantee safety,” Seslow said. “We’re very careful to explicitly tell our staff to let customers know that we do all we can to not put them in harm’s way—but not to say that travel is safe.”
As a general rule, he noted, “we tell people that traveling in a group is always the best situation for an American traveler, in Israel or in general.”
Travel to Israel has been slumping for some time, though Tourism Minister Yariv Levin also noted on Monday that the recent increase in terrorist activity at the street level, where individuals have been attacked at random, has resulted in “hardly any cancellations.”
The U.S. State Department website cautions American tourists about terrorist activity in Israel, but the post is from early in the year and has not been updated recently.
Dealing with danger
Manny Paulo, vice president of product at Collette, also has not seen any cancellations, but is keeping “a very close eye out. Client safety always comes first, and Collette wouldn’t be sending clients out anywhere where their safety was in danger.”
As with tours in Africa, Paulo said, “there’s a wait and see attitude to see how things develop. It’s unfortunate that political events and economic conditions around the world have an impact.”
But many are not convinced.
Lynda Reich, president of Luxury Travel Consultants, a TRAVELSAVERS agency, said “people are uncomfortable” with the situation in Israel.
“I would have gone six months ago, but no way right now, because the terrorism is so random,” she said. “I have had clients go, though, and I just booked a family for next year. But I hope they don’t go.”
While the Groupon offer went live today, and the social media have been buzzing about it, the formal marketing campaign will not even begin until next week. “We’ll know in a week or 10 days if it’s working,” Seslow said.
Pic: Berthold Werner