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Israel in top 10 for New 7 Wonders of Nature campaign
By SHARON UDASIN
11/07/2011
Tourism minister urges Israelis to keep voting for Dead Sea in int'l contest: "We're closer than ever to victory... We must not be apathetic."
 
The Dead Sea is among the top 10 finalists in the international New 7 Wonders of Nature campaign, which will conclude on Friday 11.11.2011 at 11:11 Zurich time (13:11 Israel time), the contest organizers announced on Sunday.

Joining the shared Israeli- Palestinian-Jordanian contestant in the leading group are the Grand Canyon (United States), the Great Barrier Reef (Australia), Halong Bay (Vietnam), Jeita Grotto (Lebanon), Jeju Island (Korea), Komodo Island (Indonesia), Puerto Princess Underground River (the Philippines), Sundarbans (Bangladesh and India) and Mount Vesuvius (Italy).

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Thus far, the government has spent millions of shekels propelling a PR battle to secure a winning spot in the contest, which the Tourism Ministry says will bring a significant boost in visitors to the Dead Sea area and to Israel in general.

“We are closer than ever to victory, but we must remember that we are not there yet and everything can still change,” said Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov in a statement.

“We must not be apathetic. Instead, we must continue to vote for the Dead Sea in full force, both in Israel and around the world. A win for the Dead Sea would mean hundreds of thousands of more tourists to the region every year, thousands of more job opportunities and an improvement in Israel’s image overseas as an attractive tourism destination.”

Wide-scale PR efforts began with a comprehensive marketing campaign of NIS 8.75 million that was launched in May. Of the total – NIS 3.5 million of which came from the Tourism Ministry and NIS 2 million from the Prime Minister’s Office – NIS 7.25 million were slated for promoting the subject abroad and NIS 1.5 for use in Israel.

In mid-October, Meseznikov launched an electronic countdown clock reflected off the top of Tel Aviv’s Crown Plaza City Center building. Just over a week later, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar greeted students on their computer screens in a nationwide virtual classroom with a live lecture by Dr. Hanan Ginat, science director of the Dead Sea and Arava Science Center and a lecturer at the Arava Institute.

The group responsible for the international campaign, the Zurich-based New7Wonders Foundation, previously held a similar New 7 Wonders of the World campaign that concluded on July 7, 2007, which involved over 100 million voters and in which Petra, Jordan, was one of the winners.

While the top seven places in the current New 7 Wonders of Nature contest are still far from secure, the New7Wonders Foundation stressed that Asian countries seem to be performing particularly well.

“Clearly, Asian finalists are strong at this stage, reflecting the way the world is evolving east, and at the same time, I know the actual top seven will change in the coming days,” said president and founder of the New7Wonders Foundation, Bernard Weber, in a statement.

“We remain excited and intrigued to see who will emerge as the provisional New7Wonders of Nature on 11/11/11.”

Until the contest’s conclusion, those interested in Israel can send SMS messages casting their Dead Sea votes by texting the words “Dead Sea” in English, Hebrew or Arabic to the number 2244, or by visiting www.new7wonders.com or votedeadsea.com.
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