Desperate for customers, Eilat mall offers to comp shoppers’ plane rides

Looking to boost business in hard-hit Red Sea resort city, Ice Mall says it will cover the ticket cost for anyone who spends over NIS 1,000

The Ice Mall in the southern city of Eilat on July 28, 2019. (Mendy Hechtman/Flash90)
The Ice Mall in the southern city of Eilat on July 28, 2019. (Mendy Hechtman/Flash90)

A mall in the Red Sea resort city of Eilat is offering to refund the cost of plane tickets for Israelis who splash out on goods at its stores, in a bid to drum up business as Israel reopens its economy.

Malls were allowed to reopen Thursday after being shuttered in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, though they must limit the number of people who can enter at a time and adhere to new social distancing regulations.

With many still wary about the spread of the virus and thousands feeling the pinch from weeks without work, stores have been slow to begin to recoup costs from being shut down for over a month.

Eilat, a seaside vacation town far from Israel’s population centers, has been one of the hardest economically by the COVID-19 outbreak, with unemployment shooting past 70% as its tourism-dependent economy came to a halt.

While hotels are still shuttered for the most part, the city’s Ice Mall has offered to refund the plane tickets (Hebrew) of Israelis who spend over NIS 1,000 ($285).

The mall said the offer would be in effect from May 11 to 21 or until the roundtrip plane tickets, offered on Israir for NIS 200, run out.

Eilat is a popular shopping destination for many Israelis, as products sold in the city are exempted from Israel’s 17 percent value-added tax on goods and services.

An Israeli flag fluters as the Red Sea resort city of Eilat and Jordan’s Red Sea resort city of Aqaba are seen in the background, on April 17, 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

With international flights still limited, Eilat could potentially benefit as one of the few vacation destinations available to Israelis. While most hotels remain shuttered, many are planning on opening over the next several weeks.

The government decision to allow malls and outdoor markets to reopen Thursday came as the infection rate in Israel has dropped significantly, with the country on Saturday evening marking two weeks since more than 200 new cases were recorded in a 24-hour period and one week since there were 100 infections in a day.

Government officials have warned however that restrictions on movement, gatherings and economic activity could be reimposed if there are more than 100 new coronavirus cases a day, a doubling of cases within 10 days, or over 250 people with serious symptoms in hospitals.

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