Outgoing Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov (Yisrael Beytenu) can look back on his
four years in office with satisfaction at a series of important accomplishments,
even if his exit turns out to be solely the result of reports about
hard-drinking escapades unbecoming of a minister.
In talks with Israeli
tourism insiders on Tuesday, Meseznikov was described as a man who did above
average work in a ministry whose portfolio he held longer than anyone else in
the past 20 years.
Meseznikov presided over the ministry during three
consecutive years (2010- 2012) when Israel set all-time records for incoming
tourism, as the days of the second intifada faded further into the rear-view
mirror and the country experienced consistent quiet and a thriving
For Shmuel Tzurel, head of the Israel Hotel Owners Association,
the hope is only that “whoever runs the ministry next will be as good as he
was,” and credited Meseznikov for his efforts to help the Dead Sea, “without
which it would not have survived.”
Tzurel was referring to the government
decision made in February, which approved the investment of NIS 833 million over
the next five years towards the rehabilitation of the Dead Sea, mainly through
repairing infrastructure damaged by changing water levels, and refurbishing
attractions in the area. The plan was heavily supported by Meseznikov and he is
widely seen as being responsible for securing government support for the
In addition to his success in keeping the Dead Sea alive,
Meseznikov can rest his laurels on two other accomplishments: the mutual
cancellation of the need for tourist visas for Russia and Ukraine (an issue of
serious importance for his party’s key constituency of Israelis with roots in
the former Soviet Union) and founding the government committees to reduce the
price of hotel stays in Israel and a new framework for rating hotels.
the end of the day though, Meseznikov’s term could be judged mainly by the
reports of his personal escapades and his inability to bring about real
advancement in the reduction of hotel prices in Israel, an effort complicated by
the high operating costs and shortage of rooms at hotels across the
Nonetheless, as one tourism industry source said, “a former boss
told me 80 percent of success is timing, and the other 20% is
Meseznikov had the good fortune to take the reins of the
ministry during a time of great security and economic prosperity in Israel,
during which incoming tourism rates were rising in countries across the
That said, the minister announced his impending resignation less
than two weeks after the end of Operation Pillar of Defense, which, according to
his ministry, has resulted in a 20% drop in hotel reservations for incoming
tourists. To repair this backward trend Israel could need a concerted government
outreach effort and a long period of quiet, rarely a sure thing in this
At the end of the day, Meseznikov did a good job of steering a
ship sailing in calm waters, whose product – the Holy Land, the Dead Sea, and
the hedonism of Tel Aviv – will always remain a draw.
now is that the incoming minister continue the steps in the right direction that
were taken in the previous four years, starting with the push to bring down the
costs for those very tourists Israel is now looking to get back.
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