Exclusive: 65 percent of new visitors leave Israel with better impression
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Exclusive: 65 percent of new visitors leave Israel with better impression

Justin Cohen is the News Editor at the Jewish News

In total, a record 3.54 million visitors entered Israel in 2013.
In total, a record 3.54 million visitors entered Israel in 2013.

A staggering 65 percent of first-time visitors from Britain to Israel have an improved impression of the country after seeing the state for themselves, a new survey has revealed, writes Justin Cohen.

The research, initiated by the Jewish News and conducted by easyJet among more than 500 passengers, also highlights the extent to which the media shapes British views of the Jewish state. Of the 529 first-time easyJet travellers to Israel, 57 percent reported having a ‘much’ or ‘slightly’ better impression on their return to the UK – rising to 65 percent among the 172 respondents who had never previously been at all.

1 Israel 154_Dafna
A huge 78 percent said they would visit again

Exactly half of the total 290 men and 239 women said their impressions had been inaccurate, while just 27 percent said it was accurate. Commenting on their improved perspective, one traveller said: “It’s important to see the country for oneself and that only to think of the reports”, while another described the country as “peaceful, friendly and beautiful”.

Israeli Ambassador Daniel Taub said the results, while good news at first glance, also provided “cause for concern”. He added: “It confirms the troubling fact that widely-held perceptions of Israel are disconnected from, and far more negative, than the reality.” And he warned: “The fact is that the majority of people will never visit Israel and their inaccurate preconceptions are unlikely to be corrected.”

Taub suggested that the statistics raised two key questions. “Can the media truly be fulfilling its responsibility to present that reality accurately?” if such a large percentage of people are so “pleasantly surprised” when seeing the country for themselves.  He added: “The second question is for  Israel and its supporters: If the reality is truly Israel’s greatest ally, what more can we do to enable people to experience the reality of Israel – ideally by bringing them to see it first hand, or failing that,  by bringing a taste of it to them here in the UK?”

One of the other key findings of this summer’s survey was that television was a key shaper of people’s impressions before visiting Israel, with 49 percent of the more than 500 people saying it had an impact. Friends were the second biggest influence on 46 percent, ahead of newspapers and even family. Tourists’ enthusiasm about the venue was also very evident.

A huge 78 percent said they would visit again and a total of 82 percent claimed they had or would recommend the Middle East state as a potential holiday destination. The most popular activities for travellers were visiting tourist and historic sites (69 percent), spending time with friends and family (58 per- cent) and leisure activities including enjoying the beaches (53 percent).

The latter was the most popular option for those aged 35 or under. The results of the poll – for which BICOM provided advice – were released as easyJet said it will fly to Tel Aviv from a third UK airport. It will run three flights weekly from Gatwick from next April, hoping to take an additional 50,000 passengers to the country.

Hugh Aitken, UK commercial manager for easyJet, said: “Our research, in conjunction with the Jewish News, has helped us better understand why passengers choose Tel Aviv. The most striking finding was the destination’s growing popularity with young travellers who viewed it as a relaxing, beach destination.”

He added: “One of the reasons for launching new flights from Gatwick is because Tel Aviv’s appeal has been growing.”

‘Why easyJet statistics can be read two ways’

by Daniel Taub, Israeli Ambassador to the UK.

Ambassador Daniel Taub
Ambassador Daniel Taub

On the face of it the fact that 57% of Easyjet visitors to Israel  said they had a better impression of Israel as a result of their visit is good news. Looked at another way, however, it has to be cause for concern.  It confirms the troubling fact that widely-held perceptions of Israel are disconnected from, and far more negative than, the reality.

 The survey results support the findings of a number of recent studies concerning public impressions of Israel.  One study, using a technique called the “house party test”, asked  focus groups to describe imaginary houses on a street, each representing a different country. Groups which described the Italian house as covered in ivy with pleasant music and good food, and  the Japanese house as being  ornate with tranquil  gardens, invariably described the Israeli house as  surrounded by barbed wire and populated by bearded men wearing black. Clearly the two predominant themes associated with Israel were insecurity and fundamentalist religion.

The good news, as the Easyjet survey shows, is that it takes but a brief visit to Israel, enjoying its culture, its nightlife, or simply speaking to its young people, to dispel these preconceptions.  But the fact is that the vast majority of people will never visit Israel, and their inaccurate preconceptions are unlikely to be corrected.

It seems to me that the results of the survey raise two important questions.

The first is for the media, which  has to take responsibility for most public knowledge about Israel: If more than half of visitors to Israel are so pleasantly surprised by what they see with their own eyes, can the media truly be fulfilling its responsibility to present that reality accurately?

The second question is for  Israel and its supporters: If the reality is truly Israel’s greatest ally, what more can we do to enable people to experience the reality of Israel – ideally by bringing them to see it first hand, or failing that,  by bringing a taste of it to them here in the UK?

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...

Engaging

Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.

Celebrating

There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.

Pioneering

In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.

Campaigning

Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish News also produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more:
comments