Israel’s Facebook boost for Polish Tourism
Poland has become the hottest destination for Israelis after an Israeli woman set up a tourist information Facebook page.
Daniela Signer’s ‘Holidays in Warsaw, Krakow and the rest of Poland’ site has already attracted over 34,000 members in less than a year and the numbers are growing.
The site, which is in Hebrew, allows members to swap tips and information on trips to Poland and the 42-year-old said that despite recent political tensions between the two countries, the number of tourists travelling to Poland has increased.
Ms Signer said she come up with the idea for the website on a trip to Warsaw last year when she fell in love with the place.
Shortly before her flight, she opened a Facebook group to collect information about the capital. A few days later, the group had thousands of members who wanted to give tips and learn more about Poland.
She told The First News: "I came here in January 2017 in the middle of a snowstorm, with a temperature of minus 20 degrees outside. Most of the day I was in the malls or in my hotel room.
"I returned to Israel very frustrated, but shortly later I booked another flight.”
Since then, in only a year and three months, Ms Signer has visited Poland 20 times and her Facebook group has become one of the largest and most popular in Israel.
She was even filmed for a video on her favourite places in Warsaw designed to encourage Israeli tourists to visit.
She said: "People heard about the group through word of mouth, and in a short time it became a hit with thousands of Israelis.
“We started out as a Facebook group called "Vacation in Warsaw.” Afterwards, we added “Krakow” as well. The demand increased and many Israelis asked for information about other cities in Poland. Then we set the name of the group to “Vacation in Warsaw, Krakow and the rest of Poland.
“At the same time, the Polish national airline LOT added new destinations for flights from Israel to Poland, and the interest of Israelis increased even more.
“Everyone wanted to learn about Poland and to visit here,” she told the First News in a Warsaw cafe.
She added: "Most of the members of the group are adults over the age of 60, and their interest in Poland is mostly connected to their roots. Shopping, of course, is also a popular reason for many Israelis to visit Poland. Its significantly cheaper than Israel.”
Tens of thousands of members of Daniela's group now exchange information, tips and suggestions about trips to Poland along with information on recommended sites, how to get from place to place, recommended restaurants, information about guided tours in Hebrew in Warsaw, Krakow and more.
In a few cases, the Facebook group has helped people get medical treatment after receiving information from other members about the nearest medical centres.
The popularity of the Facebook group has now turned Ms Signer into a bit of a celebrity. She has been invited onto TV shows in Israel where she talks about Poland and many Israelis who fly to Poland already recognise her, ask to be photographed with her and ask her for useful advice.
She said: "I receive more than 100 emails a day, and I can’t answer everyone. The group changed the culture of Israelis' tours. Every weekend I publish a newsletter with a list of events in Warsaw, because every day so much happens in this city.
“The Polish ‘Holocaust Law changed the picture somewhat. Israelis who did not visit Poland or did not have Polish roots, could not understand how an Israeli dared to encourage tourism to Poland at this time.
"So I decided to start approving posts before publication, and I decided that there would be no politics in the group. Poland would be a tourist destination and not a subject for political discussion. I think that the combination of Poland’s Jewish history, together with entertainment and shopping, have become a winning combination for Israelis.
"I think that the discourse around Poland has changed in recent years. Poland has become the number one destination for Israelis, Warsaw is replacing Berlin. I have never encountered anti-semitism in Poland, and when I tell people in Poland that I am from Israel, I see the look in their eyes change. I see this Facebook group as a bridge between Israelis and Poles, and a lot of people write to me saying they decided to visit Poland because of my group. Everyone who visited Poland later shares information with the other members."
The group's popularity has also reached the ears of Warsaw's municipality leaders, who approached Ms Signer and asked her to shoot a video clip about Warsaw designed for Israeli tourists.
"I am in contact with various institutions such as the Polish Institute in Israel, where I lecture on Warsaw.
“And I am in touch with the Polish airline Lot as well as the Warsaw municipality which sends me daily a list of events that I publish on Facebook.”
Daniela also operates two sub-groups - "Holiday in Poland with Children", in which members share information about family-friendly tours, and the "Shopping in Poland" group, which focuses on top shopping places and popular products.
The success of the group has led to the establishment of a parallel Facebook group for Poles called "Vacation in Israel."
Set up by Vlodeck Rubin, an Israeli with Polish roots, the group currently has more than 5,000 registered members, most of whom are Polish residents interested in vacationing in Israel or who have returned from a vacation in Israel and want to share their thoughts and tips.