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Photo by: Marc Israel Sellem
Tourism industry suffers cancellations after Gaza op
By BEN HARTMAN
25/11/2012
Israel’s tourism industry suffered cancellations of up to 20% during the eight days of Operation Pillar of Defense.
 
Israel’s tourism industry suffered cancellations of between 10 percent and 20% during the eight days of Operation Pillar of Defense and a drop in future reservations, the Tourism Ministry reported on Sunday.

The ministry said the damage was felt not only in the rocketbattered south, but also in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, which were targeted by long range rockets from Gaza during the operation.

In a press release it put out on Sunday, the ministry said that Minister Stas Meseznikov and ministry Director-General Noaz Bar Nir met with other industry leaders last Thursday to work on ways to return a sense of normalcy to the industry.

The ministry said that in terms of flights to Israel, the damage appears to only be short-term and that only a few charter flights to Israel were canceled. The ministry added that in an effort to reassure worried potential visitors, the Tour Guides Association recommended during the meeting sending representatives to meet with overseas groups to allay their concerns about visiting Israel.

Meseznikov told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that the ministry will also increase efforts to promote internal Israeli tourism, in particular in the south, to increase tourism to the areas of the country most hit by the war. He also said the ministry will increase advertising in target countries like Russia, the US and the UK, with the hope of returning the influx of tourists to the normal holiday level in time for Christmas.

While his tone was one of optimism, Meseznikov did admit that with tourism “it can take you years of work to try to increase the numbers of incoming charter flights, but only six days to lose them.”

Yossi Fischer, deputy chairman of the Incoming Tourism Unit of the Travel Agents Association, sounded an optimistic tone as well, saying that the damage to Israel’s tourism industry will most likely be only in the short term.

“Look at Egypt – you had violent protests where hundreds were killed and by now the tourism has more or less returned to where it was before.

There’s no reason it won’t come back for Israel too.”

Fischer said it will be hard for Israel to bring back those tourists who canceled their trips because in the meantime they found alternative destinations, but that by Christmas the industry should see the numbers of returning tourists they’re used to.

“There’s no reason to panic.

Look at Operation Cast Lead in 2009 – it was a much longer campaign, with a ground operation and more people killed, and still 2010 was a recordbreaking year for tourism.”

Fischer, who began his career in tourism around the time of the Palestine Liberation Front’s hijacking of the SS Achille Lauro off the coast of Egypt in 1985, said he’s seen this movie play out before, through crisis after crisis in the region.

“This isn’t the first crisis I’ve seen the tourism industry here bounce back from, and it won’t be the last either.”
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