WATCH: Sir Richard Branson puts bartering skills to the test in Jaffa market!
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WATCH: Sir Richard Branson puts bartering skills to the test in Jaffa market!

Virgin Atlantic's boss gave successful hagglers vouchers which they can exchange when they want to fly from Tel Aviv to London

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

An Israeli company which specialises in rescuing marine infrastructure won the heart of Sir Richard Branson last week. ECOncrete, founded in 2012 by marine ecologists Dr Shimrit Perkol-Finkel and Dr Ido Sella, was one of five hi-tech companies which took part in an event called “Pitch to Rich”, part of a three-day long celebration of Virgin Atlantic’s newest route from London to Tel Aviv.

The company offers a range of high performance, environmentally sensitive concrete solutions, which enhance the biological and ecological value of urban, coastal, and marine infrastructure while increasing their strength and durability. Sir Richard, whose main residence is Necker Island in the Caribbean, is very keen on improving the marine environment, particularly looking for solutions to repair damage to coastlines and reefs.

ECOncrete is now working all over the world and in May this year installed its first UK fixture —a tide pool coastal installation at North Portsea, next to Plymouth. Known as Tide Pool Armor and made in the UK to ECOncrete specifications, the fixture is designed to help preserve the coastline of Portsea Island and offer a new habitat for local marine life.

As the winner of the “Pitch to Rich” event, the company has won flights to London, three nights’ accommodation, and a place on a Virgin Start Up course which focuses on taking one’s business to the next level.

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Meanwhile, Sir Richard Branson took to the streets of Jaffa directly with the jokily-titled “Come Flea With Me” stall in the city’s flea market. Warned, by Jerusalem-born Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss, that Israelis were keen hagglers for a bargain, Sir Richard decided to test the water himself.

He encouraged local shoppers to barter with him for flights, and around 10 took up the challenge. As well as offering flights, his market stall was decked out with Virgin Atlantic merchandise, which he offered customers to sweeten the deal.

One savvy Israeli secured return flights for just $45 — a 90 per cent discount — while a British father and daughter bagged flights for just a quarter of the asking price. A married couple convinced Branson to throw in a business class upgrade to their return tickets to celebrate their anniversary. But one man’s wife was not impressed — because he walked away with just a toy plane, not believing that the stall was real.

The successful barterers received vouchers which they can exchange when they want to fly from Tel Aviv to London.

Sir Richard said: “Israel is famous for its savvy negotiators, so I wanted to go head to head with some of its residents to put my skills to the test —  and I had to bring my A-game.”

He added: “With its thriving start-up scene, pristine beaches and vibrant nightlife, Tel Aviv was a key destination for Virgin Atlantic to establish a new route. We’re thrilled to be helping our customers discover everything the city has to offer, playing a part in strengthening the cultural and commercial connection between London and Tel Aviv.”

Flights start on the London to Tel Aviv route from £298 per person.

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