Daily News Portal

MIDDLE EAST CONFLICT LATEST: Travel industry updates

Amid the ever-evolving situation in Israel, Gaza and surrounding regions, we’ve established a reliable hub to keep you in the loop with the most current and accurate travel industry updates.

We’ll continue to refresh stories from the Middle East as they come to hand, so be sure to check back for all the information you require.

Do you have any info or news to share about what you’re experiencing? Please email us at editor@karryon.com.au.

Oceania launches 2024 itineraries with 42 revised itineraries

Monday 6 November 2023

Oceania Cruises Vista.
Oceania Vista. Credit: Nick Tortajada

Oceania Cruises has updated its 2024 Mediterranean schedule, replacing ports of call in Israel, Egypt, and Jordan with 42 revised itineraries.

The Middle Eastern destinations have been replaced with a combination of popular Mediterranean favourites, as well as new destinations.  The revised itineraries range from 10 to 58 days in duration. 

“Our captivating new voyages have been carefully curated to combine beloved beach resorts and jet-set playgrounds with ancient cities steeped in tradition,” stated Frank A. Del Rio, President of Oceania Cruises, a wholly owned subsidiary of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.

Read more.

Royal Caribbean removes Israel from 2024 itineraries

Monday 6 November 2023

Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean is removing Israel from its 2024 itineraries due to the Israel-Hamas war, according to an email sent to travel agents on Thursday seen by Reuters, making it the second major U.S. cruise operator to alter its plans over the conflict.

The Miami, Florida-based cruise operator is modifying itineraries as late as October 2024 for its Royal Caribbean International unit that stops in Israel, the email said.

Travel has declined sharply across Israel and the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank. International air carriers have halted trips to top destinations such as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv as the conflict continues.

Royal Caribbean told investors last week that itineraries that included Israel account for less than 1.5 per cent of its capacity for 2024.

The safest countries to travel to in the Middle East right now

Monday, 30 October 2023

Souq Waqif, Doha, Qatar
Souq Waqif, Doha, Qatar

While conflict rages on in the Israel-Hamas war, parts of the Middle East are almost entirely risk-free for travellers. So, which countries does the Australian Government deem safest in the region right now?

There are only three Middle Eastern nations for which DFAT gives the lowest level of travel advice. And unsurprisingly, they’re on the Gulf (eastern) side of the region: the United Arab Emirates (including Dubai and Abu Dhabi), Qatar and Oman. 

While the government advises Australians to ‘Exercise normal safety precautions’ in these countries, it does warn that ‘Conflict in the Middle East and Gulf region’ could impact even the UAE and Qatar.

In Oman, whose travel advice has not been updated during the latest Middle East conflict, travellers have only been warned to ‘Reconsider their need to travel’ to the rarely visited border areas with Yemen.

According to the 2023 edition of the Insight Out Consulting-Phocuswright ‘Middle East Travel Market Report’, the UAE expects to see double-digit growth in visitor arrivals in 2023.

The largest travel market in the Middle East, the Emirates (as a whole) was one of the first destinations to recover its tourism sector following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The research also found that Qatar’s tourism sector experienced a huge recovery last year, driven by the FIFA World Cup, the ongoing expansion of Qatar’s infrastructure and the growing popularity of the country as a tourist destination.

By 2030, Qatar expects to welcome six to seven million visitors annually.

MSC Cruises updates itineraries for safety

Thursday, 26 October 2023

The MSC Orchestra. MSC Cruises
The MSC Orchestra.

MSC Cruises has cancelled its winter program for MSC Orchestra due to its proximity to Israel and bordering countries’ restrictions. 

Changes are also being made to other itineraries amid the current geopolitical situation. 

Travel restrictions and government advisories in certain destinations prompted these actions.

The winter program for MSC Sinfonia, highlighting Haifa in Israel, has also been cancelled. 

Minor itinerary adjustments are being implemented for MSC Virtuosa, MSC Opera, MSC Splendida, and two 11-night sailings for MSC Armonia.

Affected passengers have the option to switch to a similar cruise or request a full refund. 

MSC Cruises reaffirms its commitment to passenger and crew safety, monitoring and modifying ship itineraries as needed.

Elsewhere, Royal Caribbean has cancelled the remainder of the Rhapsody of the Seas’ 2023 sailings from Haifa, while Oceania has removed calls in Israel for three sailings until the end of the year.

Windstar moves Middle East to Med

Thursday, 26 October 2023

The Star Legend in The Netherlands.
The Star Legend in The Netherlands.

Windstar Cruises has shifted the schedule for Star Legend from the Middle East to the Mediterranean due to safety concerns stemming from the Israel-Hamas conflict. 

The new 2023/24 winter schedule will now take in visits to well-known ports such as Barcelona, Nice, Florence, Marseille, and Rome.

“The ship was originally scheduled to sail in the Middle East. We’ve postponed our launch in that region to begin in November 2024,” Windstar Cruises President Christopher Prelog said. 

“With a ship in the Mediterranean, we saw an opportunity to offer guests a legendary winter season in Europe. 

“Our small ships and intimate atmosphere provide a truly unique way to explore Europe’s winter wonderlands, while enjoying the magic of the season and the comforts and casual luxury that Windstar is known for.”

Hotels half full with evacuees; some warn of collapse

Wednesday, 25 October 2023

A hotel in Herzliya Pituah, Israel. Middle East
A hotel in Herzliya Pituah, Israel.

With tourists fleeing war-torn Israel en masse over the past two weeks, Israeli hotels have taken on new guests: tens of thousands of people displaced by the Israel-Hamas war. 

According to Reuters, the CEO of the Israel Hotel Association said last week that half of the country’s hotel rooms are being used to house evacuees from communities near the Gaza Strip. 

That’s 28,000 of 56,000 total rooms, with the government footing the bill, said CEO Yael Danieli. 

Making matters worse, tens of thousands of displaced residents from border towns with Lebanon are expected to add to the demand.

With properties in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Herzliya, the Dan Hotel chain and rival Isrotel are among the properties providing accommodation for evacuees. 

But some hotels have warned of bankruptcy due to unpaid bills by the state. 

According to the Jerusalem Post, one hotel owner said, “If we don’t receive payment promptly, we may have to ask the evacuees to leave, as we are on the brink of bankruptcy.”

The Holiday Inn Ashkelon. Israel, Middle East
The Holiday Inn Ashkelon. Israel.

In Ashkelon in the country’s south, civilian evacuations have been suspended due to a lack of hotel rooms, local authorities said earlier this week.

“Up to today, despite full readiness for evacuating residents, there are no available hotel rooms across the country,” the coastal city’s municipality said, according to radio station Kan Darom.

Meanwhile, the Tourism Ministry said there was was currently no shortage of hotel rooms.

Elsewhere, global accommodation giant IHG Hotels and Resorts said it was monitoring the situation in Israel closely and had increased security measures in and around their hotels, Reuters reported.

Six Senses Shaharut and Hotel Indigo Tel Aviv – Diamond District have temporarily closed, but other hotels in Israel remain open, an IHG spokesperson said.

Is Cyprus safe?

Tuesday, 24 October 2023

Tourists at Nissi beach before the conflict.
Tourists at Nissi beach, Cyprus, before the conflict.

The UK Foreign Office has updated its travel advice for those in Cyprus, flagging an increased risk of demonstrations relating to the hostilities between Israel and Hamas.

A popular tourist destination for northern Europeans seeking sun and sea, Cyprus is located around 200kms off the coast of Lebanon, which is now a no-go zone for travellers.

“Demonstrations may occur with little or no warning in cities. Events in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories have led to heightened tensions in the region and demonstrations are likely,” the UK Government warns.

“Avoid any protests, political gatherings, or marches and leave the area if one develops. Local transport routes may be disrupted.”

In an update on Friday, The Standard reported that flights and holidays to the country were unaffected.

The Australian Government advises Aussies to “Exercise a high degree of caution” in Cyprus in its latest travel advice for the country, which was updated on 19 October.

But this is due to the UN peacekeeping operation in the country that maintains a buffer zone between the “Republic of Cyprus” and “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” and not directly linked to the Israel-Hamas conflict.

“There are additional security measures in place at Larnaca and Pafos airports. You should arrive at your terminal at least 3 hours before your flight’s departure time,” DFAT adds.

The US Government advises its citizens to “Exercise normal precautions in Cyprus”, but warned “some areas have increased risk”. 

Middle East Airlines moves fleet, cancels flights

Tuesday, 24 October 2023

A MEA A320 in Frankfurt, Germany.
A MEA A320 in Frankfurt, Germany.

Middle East Airlines (MEA), the national carrier of Lebanon, has shifted most of its aircraft from Beirut to Qatar, Oman, Cyprus and other nearby countries as the Israel-Hamas war rages on. As a consequence of the reshuffle, the carrier has been forced to reschedule or cancel many of its flights. According to Airways, MEA chair Mohammed Al-Hout said only eight of the airline’s aircraft would currently remain operational. 

“Our priority is to secure communication between Lebanon and the rest of the world,” he said. 

“We don’t have security information about a possible attack on the airport in Lebanon but references and all the information we [have] indicated that the operations will remain within the rules of engagement and under control in southern Lebanon.”

Govt helping 77 Aussies in Gaza; airports hit

Monday, 23 October 2023

The Australian Government is extending assistance to 77 citizens, permanent residents, and family members affected by the conflict in the Gaza Strip, Foreign Minister Penny Wong said.

The update comes as Israel tells those in the north of Gaza to head south before a ground invasion, reports the ABC.

Meanwhile, DFAT has upgraded its travel advice for Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

“We now advise do not travel to the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem) due to the volatile security situation,” it says on its Smartraveller website.

“We continue to advise reconsider your need to travel to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories overall and do not travel to Gaza, border areas with Gaza and border areas with Lebanon.”

Elsewhere, flights have been rerouted out of Syria, after Israeli missiles struck the country’s two main airports, Damascus and Aleppo, the SANA state news agency reported on Sunday.

According to PBS, more than 1,400 people (mostly civilians) have been killed in Israel since the war began, while the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza says over 4,300 Palestinians have been killed.

US issues worldwide travel alert

Sunday, 22 October 2023

Newark Airport.
Newark Airport

The United States Government has issued a “Worldwide Caution” for any American citizens travelling outside of the country.

Due to increased tensions in various locations around the world, the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations or violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests, the Department of State advises U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution,” the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs advises on its website. 

The U.S. recommends citizens “stay alert in locations frequented by tourists” and enrol in its Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive information and alerts when travelling.

According to CNN, State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said that “we take a number of factors into consideration when making that determination to issue a worldwide alert”.

“It’s not necessarily any one thing but everything that we’re watching around the world,” he said at a recent State Department update.

Last week, the U.S. also raised its travel advice for Lebanon and Israel to the highest level.

Travel advice for Lebanon now higher than Israel & Palestinian Territories

Friday, 20 October 2023

Temple of Bacchus, Baalbek, Lebanon
Temple of Bacchus, Baalbek, Lebanon

The government has upgraded its official travel advice to Lebanon to the highest level due to deteriorating security amid the Israel-Gaza conflict.

The elevated travel warning – to “Do not travel” (level four) – lifts its advice for the country above that for Israel and the Palestinian Territories, where the government recommends Australians “Reconsider your need to travel” (level three). 

On its Smartraveller website, DFAT puts the new warning down to “the volatile security situation and the risk of the security situation deteriorating further”.

“Daily military action is occurring in southern Lebanon and could escalate quickly,” it states.

“If you’re in Lebanon and wish to leave, you should depart through the first available commercial option as soon as you’re able to do so.” “Airports may pause operations with little notice due to heightened security concerns. This may cause flight delays or cancellations for a sustained period.” “The Australian Government’s ability to assist you to depart Lebanon will be very limited in a deteriorating security situation.”

It also asserts that “Terrorist attacks could occur anytime and anywhere, including in Beirut”.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong said on social media on Thursday the government “has serious concerns over the security situation in Lebanon”.

“Today, we have upgraded Australia’s travel advice for Lebanon to Do Not Travel. This means, if you are an Australian in Lebanon, you should consider leaving now, if it is safe to do so,” she wrote.

“Commercial departure options remain available – but this may change with little notice during a crisis.”

The upgraded advice aligns with new US and UK government warnings for Lebanon. 

The advice for neighbouring Syria is also “Do not travel”.

What’s going on in Jordan?

Friday, 20 October 2023

The Treasury or Al-khazneh, Petra, Jordan. Israel Middle East
The Treasury/Al-khazneh, Petra, Jordan.

Jordan’s border with Israel is less than 100 kms from the main conflict zones in Gaza and Israel. But the country remains mostly open for tourism, while its airports continue to operate as normal.

DFAT’s overall advice level for the country also remains the same – at level two (‘Exercise a high degree of caution’). Instead, higher travel warnings are in place for the region that borders Syria and Iraq, where “security is unstable”.

Yesterday (19 October), DFAT updated its overall travel advice for Jordan in light of the ongoing war.

Some land border crossings from Israel into Jordan are scheduled to be opened daily, but crossings may close without notice and for an unknown period of time.

You need a visa to enter Jordan. Visas on arrival are available but be prepared for delays when crossing into Jordan.

If you’re departing Israel to Jordan, check the Jordanian and Israeli government websites to determine if border crossings are open before travel.

Avoid protests and large public gatherings. Monitor local media for updates and follow instructions of authorities.

According to euronews, the Jordan Tourism Board stated that the country is a “safe and welcoming destination for tourists around the world”.

“Our commitment to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all visitors remains unwavering,” a recent statement said.

“We want to reassure everyone that Jordan’s borders are open to tourists, and we are eager to share our extraordinary experiences with the world.”

Government data shows that from January to July this year, Jordan welcomed 50 per cent more tourists – 3 million – compared to the same period in 2022, Arab News reported.

Australia’s final Tel Aviv flight today

Thursday, 19 October 2023

Sydney Airport arrivals
Sydney Airport arrivals

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil says a repatriation flight leaving Tel Aviv today is the last planned flight by the Australian government. While more services might be possible, Australians wanting to leave Israel are strongly urged to take this flight, the minister told ABC News Breakfast.

Meanwhile, 46 Australians in Gaza have registered with the government to leave the war-torn area.

O’Neil emphasised the limited transport options in the region and urged those in Gaza to understand the challenging situation and prepare for their departure. The government is actively working on a plan to help Aussies in Gaza.

Meanwhile, another repatriation flight carrying 252 passengers, half of whom were Australian citizens, arrived in Sydney this morning. 

Is Egypt safe?

Thursday, 19 October 2023

Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. Middle East
Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

While its border with Gaza is closed, Egypt’s other borders remain open. Airlines and travel companies also continue to operate in the country, The Independent reports. Most of the country’s major cities and tourist sites are also a significant distance from the Israel-Egypt border.

Sharm el Sheikh is the closest tourist town, but is over 2.5 hours from the nearest border town and five hours by car from the Gaza border.

DFAT hasn’t updated its travel advice for Egypt since 13 October, but here’s its official advice specifically regarding the new conflict:

  • The situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories could lead to increased tensions and the security situation could deteriorate with little notice. Avoid all demonstrations and protests. Peaceful protests and rallies can turn violent at short notice. Be aware, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media for updates.
  • The Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt may be closed or have highly restricted access for long periods and is subject to change at short notice. It has been subject to air strikes during the current Gaza conflict.

Australians arrive home from Israel

Wednesday, 18 October 2023

The first government-chartered flight assisting the repatriation of Australians out of Israel touched down in Sydney on Tuesday.  

“The Government’s first assisted departure flight arrived in Sydney last night with 222 passengers – including 164 Australians. We have now assisted the departure of more than 1500 people,” DFAT posted on social media. 

“To register to leave call +61 2 6261 3305 (overseas) or 1300 555 135 (Aus.).”

Most of the passengers left Tel Aviv on a Qantas flight on Sunday, before the Qatar Airlines-operated flight (QR7424) flew them from Dubai to Sydney yesterday.

According to SMH, most of the travellers had resided in Israel for several years. 

Meanwhile, around 100 passengers landed in Brisbane overnight after transferring through Sydney, the ABC reported.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong posted on X, “Wonderful to see many of them reunited with their families in Australia.”

Rescue buses for Palestinian Australians cancelled

Wednesday, 18 October 2023

The Ramallah cityscape at night. (Israel)
The Ramallah cityscape at night.

As Australians begin to return home on repatriation flights out of Israel, Palestinian Aussies in the West Bank are worried the Australian Government’s attempts to help them flee the…

Read More:MIDDLE EAST CONFLICT LATEST: Travel industry updates