(photo credit: Associated Press)
With the decision on the fate of the Dead Sea hotels only weeks away, the Israel
Hotel Association released a new study on Wednesday claiming that the cost of
moving the hotels could be double the amount previously
Tearing down the beachfront hotels and relocating them further
inland is one of three possibilities currently being investigated by the state
as a solution for rising water levels in the southern part of the sea caused by
long-term industrial activity. The higher water levels threaten to crumble the
foundations of the hotels that serve as the backbone of the region’s spa tourism
The rising water levels in the part of the sea known as Lake
Number Five is caused by 20 centimeters of salt accumulation per year, a result
of the chemical extraction processes that local industries employ.
study, conducted on behalf of the association by Itai Eigis, chairman and CEO of
a consulting firm and a former director-general of the Tourism Ministry, found
that the cost to the national economy of relocating the hotels was likely to
reach NIS 6 billion, more than double the NIS 2.8b. estimated by the Dead Sea
Preservation Government Company (DSPGC), a company that was specially formed in
2008 to come up with solutions to the rising sea level and lead the eventual
planning and execution.
“The DSPGC calculated only the actual engineering
costs of tearing down and relocating the hotels; they didn’t look at how the
move would influence tourist behavior and its effect on the economy,” said
Eigis said that his company’s research looked at things like loss
of income from nightly stays both in the hotels that would be torn down as well
as in the remaining hotels that would effectively be operating in a massive
construction zone; the loss of income from tourists who would forgo Israel
altogether in favor of vacations on the Jordanian coast, and the losses
experienced in the period of gradual rebound after the hotels were
“It is important to note that our study calculated only the
losses to the national economy as a whole, not to the hoteliers themselves.
Tourists who would replace their vacations in the Dead Sea with vacations in
Eilat, for example, are not included, because their money still goes into the
national economy,” said Eigis.
Relocating the hotels is only one of three
options currently under investigation by the DSPGC. The other alternatives are
building a barrier that will create a maintainable lagoon abutting the coastline
or carrying out “full harvests” in which all of the accumulated salts are
removed from the seabed.
The other options are estimated to cost NIS 5b.
and NIS 7b. respectively.
“Our study did not investigate the likely
additional costs of lost tourism as a result of the other options, but we
believe them to be relatively negligible,” said Eigis.
According to Avi
Eitam, the engineer for the Tamar Regional Council, the local authority on whose
land the hotels are built, said the DSPGC also underestimated the amount of time
it would take for the hotels to be torn down and rebuilt. He estimated the move
would take roughly 14 years, not eight years as estimated by the
“The Dead Sea hotel industry brings pride and honor to Israel and
much-needed jobs to the unemployment-ridden region. From an economic
perspective, we are talking about a total distortion of the figures and a
misrepresentation of the truth,” said Israel Hotel Association president Eli
“I call on the ministers of tourism and finance to dismiss this
absurd proposal to destroy the Dead Sea hotels and conduct a serious and
professional debate about the two engineering solutions that relate to the Dead
Sea water levels.”
Tourism Ministry Director- General Noaz Bar-Nir told
The Jerusalem Post
that DSPGC experts had received the study findings and were
analyzing them carefully, but had yet to reach any definite
“On the face of it, some of the numbers don’t seem logical,
but we are not ruling anything out. If we see that there is a substantial
influence on the cost of any of the options, it will be taken into
Our experts are carefully analyzing the pros and cons of each of
the options and hope to have the facts presented to the minister by the middle
of November,” he said.
“For us, as the Tourism Ministry, protecting the
hotels and the tourism operators is a high priority and we might give it more
emphasis than others, but a final decision has yet to be reached,” said Bar-Nir.
“In the meantime, there are a lot of forces pushing in different directions here
and a lot of interests at stake. It is worthwhile to take everything that is
said about this move with a grain of salt.”
Adding another dimension to
the controversy, a deal is currently in the works between the government and
Israel Chemicals, the company that operates the Dead Sea Works enterprise
causing the salt accumulation.
According to Haaretz
, government officials
are considering a compromise with Israel Chemicals: if the company takes action
to save the hotels at the Dead Sea, the state will settle for a smaller share of
its revenues from mining and selling minerals.
The total payment for the
work is meant to be split between the state, Israel Chemicals, the hotels and
the regional council.