See the world from your own perspective, not just through the prism of news, says Thompson Travel owner Sharon Thompson

This week I’ve been in Israel, for the 18th time – but if I only listened to media coverage I might never have booked my first ticket.

I love it there. On this trip, I covered 60% of the country, saw new things and new places and made new discoveries. Every footstep unearths another part of history. As I travelled south from Tel Aviv via Beersheba to Eilat, I saw an industrious country using its resources to make fascinating medical and technological advances. In the desert.

It seems like an oasis as the first glimpse of water appears. It’s Eilat. The Red Sea is in view. Our barbecue lunch along the Jordanian border is amazing. I can see Saudi Arabia and Egypt from this narrow point at the southern tip of this land.

Ancient and modern

A trip to the underwater observatory and the fantastic coral reef is a highlight, before we wander along the boardwalk to our hotel. Ancient meets modern.

As my tour heads north, I think of the journeys taken by foot in times gone by. This is the great spice route and pathway to the modern world. After a journey along the main highway, the salty shores of the Dead Sea are visible. In two days, I’ve seen the Med, the Red Sea and now the Dead Sea. The resourceful salt, bromide and magnesium factories all give income to this area.

Something fascinating about this country brings people from all corners of the Earth. The media stories don’t tell you that. On my visit, I see nothing but eager tourists soaking up the atmosphere and questioning history to dispute or reaffirm their faith.

A float in the Dead Sea is a must, even for non-swimmers. The therapeutic benefits of the sea give swimmers with skin conditions a natural therapy, and dermatology hospitals continue their research into the healing qualities of these mysterious waters. Others marvel at the feeling they have on their skin as they emerge from the salty waters.

Conflict and respect

As I travelled north, the landscape changed along the River Jordan, becoming much greener. As I bypass Jericho and visit Bethlehem, I approach Jerusalem. Everyone wants a piece of this mysterious city, built on a hill and split into four quarters: Christian, Armenian, Muslim and Jewish. Tourists in their thousands take different directions in search of their faith. I love the narrow streets and little cafes serving shawarma or falafel.

There is conflict here, but respect too. Now I’m not saying we should not listen to Foreign Office travel advice, but there is much more positivity to this place than the media portrays. Hotels are always full, sites are busy and you need to book well in advance.

In our industry we get lots of opportunities to see the world from our own perspective, not the just through the prism of the news. So don’t judge a country by the media!


Let’s see how the return of Sharm goes

Well, Sharm el-Sheikh is finally back on the map, giving our customers a new sunshine option. Hopefully security is now to a standard that will ensure there isn’t another ban. It is great news that tour operators and hoteliers will benefit from a resumption of flights and returning holidaymakers after a four year hiatus. I’m sure it will take a while to build customer confidence, and who knows whether the media will help or hinder that. Once the flights are fully operational, we will see how it goes. There hasn’t been a great influx of enquiries for Sharm el-Sheikh at our agency, but we might be surprised.