Travel advisors have made “herculean” efforts to get their clients out of Israel after war with Hamas broke out Saturday, according to John Rose, Altour’s chief risk and security officer.
“It’s a huge challenge,” Rose said. “The challenge is carriers dropping service, so the advisors are doing a fantastic job, but it’s a herculean effort.”
Altour is the corporate and entertainment branch of Internova Travel Group. Rose said Internova agencies have had a “significant” number of travelers in Israel in recent days.
Most who were visiting the country for a short period of time opted to leave.
Advisors have been left with the challenge of finding an airline flying out of Israel. All three global U.S. airlines have suspended service and many European and Middle Eastern carriers have suspended or reduced service. Israeli carrier El Al is still operating and said it has even added service to help transport travelers.
But first, Rose said, advisors had to get those clients to the airport.
“Advisors are doing a fantastic job at helping their clients get out of the country,” Rose said. “A big part of it is the challenge of getting clients to the airport. We’re conducting a lot of security assistance operations on the ground because not everybody is driving to the airport and they don’t feel comfortable. They want a secure drive, secure transport, someone to wait with them at the airport.”
Rose has been connecting advisors with contacts he has on the ground. Thus far, they have been able to move clients safely.
“Resources are available,” he said. He noted that “the ground situation, of course, is really bad in the areas that have been attacked, where the infiltration happened.”
He said ground operators are using “extraordinary caution, because the potential for other situations to arise is there. It’s realistic.”
While much of the military activity has been happening in the area around Gaza, Rose encouraged everyone in the country to have heightened awareness.
He encouraged any advisor trying to get clients out of Israel to work only with reputable suppliers with the capabilities to move clients safely.
“If it gets to a point in the next couple of days, or hours even, to where there are no more commercial flights and people have to start booking charters, make sure you’re using a reputable organization who specializes in that type of work: security,” Rose said.
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