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Hotel association: Gaza war damaged tourism
By BEN HARTMAN
25/12/2012
In the wake of warning by Israel Hotel Association, Tourism Ministry announces record-breaking year in 2012.
 
Political instability in the Middle East and last month’s Operation Pillar of Defense have caused serious damage to Israel’s tourism industry, and the full impact is still unclear, Israel Hotel Association president Ami Federman said Monday.

Speaking to a group of reporters ahead of the annual hoteliers association conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, Federman said: “The world is in an economic crisis, the region is in a political crisis. In addition to this, what’s happening in Syria is closer to us than what [happened in] Libya and Tunisia and Egypt last year – Syria is very close. Also Operation Pillar of Defense, which certainly had a dramatic influence that we still don’t see all the results of.”

“All I can say is it doesn’t help tourism,” he said.

Federman also said the Israeli election system, which drives politicians to make all sorts of statements that aren’t popular in the world, “don’t help tourism, to put it lightly.”

He called on the next prime minister of Israel to appoint an effective tourism minister who can handle what he said will be the difficult task of improving Israel’s image as a tourist destination, and work to bring down the operating costs for hotels in Israel.

Federman said that he expects there to be a 10 percent drop in the number of hotel stays in Israel over 2013, as a result of the “crisis” he said Israeli tourism has been facing since Operation Pillar of Defense began.

Overall, he presented figures saying that Israeli hotel rooms had a 66% occupancy rate in 2012, and that there was a total of 22.1 million hotel stays in Israel in 2012 – a 1% rise over 2011.

Federman’s statement came the same day that the Tourism Ministry announced that 2012 set a record for tourism, with 3.5 million entries projected by the end of the year – 2% more than 2011 – with an expected NIS 36 million in increased tourism revenues.

Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov, who earlier this month was taken off the Yisrael Beytenu list for the upcoming elections by party head Avigdor Liberman, said that “these achievements are a reflection of the intensive and professional work of the past three years, when tourism has become a main engine for growth in the economy with a rise in revenues and the creation of new jobs.”

“Making tourism a preferred national industry will strengthen Israel in economy image and advocacy terms,” said Meseznikov, adding that the US remains the largest source country, with 18% of all visitors, followed closely by Russia.

Earlier this month, the ministry announced an NIS 15m. plan to rehabilitate Israel’s image overseas following Operation Pillar of Defense, including NIS 7m. to be spent in North America and NIS 8m. in Russia.

This comes in addition to a NIS 300,000 campaign launched in Israel this month to encourage local tourism in the South.
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