The Ministry of Tourism is trying to prevent the recent turmoil in most of the
Middle East and North Africa from hurting Israel’s tourism industry, according
to a ministry official.
'Despite Mideast chaos, it is still safe to visit Israel' TA hotels pricier than most Euro equivalents
“People hear ‘Libya’ and they don’t want to come
to the region,” Pini Shani, the ministry’s deputy director of marketing
administration, told The Jerusalem Post. “We demonstrate to people around the
world that although Israel is in the Middle East, it’s still a democratic
country and a safe place, and life goes on here. In some places we will
[increase] the effort to demonstrate this issue, and in other places we will go
on as usual.”
The Ministry of Tourism launched a series of campaigns last
week aimed at encouraging tourists in North America and Europe to visit Israel.
While the ministry engages in such campaigns every spring, this year’s efforts
will cost NIS 45 million, a sum which Shani admitted is higher than
The ministry’s biggest campaigns are underway in the US, Germany
and Russia, where television commercials extolling the benefits of visiting
Israel are airing. Smaller promotions have begun in Spain, the Netherlands and
Meanwhile, in France, the ministry is placing
print and radio advertisements targeting Jews who typically vacation in North
Shani said the responses from French Jews and other intended
audiences have been positive, but the ministry will not know for sure how well
the campaigns have succeeded until after Passover and after the summer, when the
Central Bureau of Statistics and Israeli travel industry associations have been
able to compile data on tourist visits and hotel occupancy rates.
weeks ago, Shani attended the ITB tourism fair in Berlin with Tourism Minister
Stas Misezhnikov, who opened the Israeli travel booth. He said most of the
comments about Israel from German tour operators were positive, and the largest
German tour companies are hoping for an increase in bookings on trips to Israel
However, “obviously, they are aware that that at some point
that might be a problem because of the crisis in the Middle East,” said Shani.
“The biggest concern is the lack of understanding of the Middle East. Many
people in Germany and other places don’t know the difference in terms of size
and distance between Israel and other countries, and when they hear ‘Middle
East’ they think of everything under one umbrella.”
The ministry is
concerned that German and other tour operators that combine trips to Israel with
visits to other countries might drop Israel from itineraries due to this
Shani also said the ministry is concerned about a possible
drop in tourism from the US due to problems in the region, but he and his
colleagues do not think a major decrease will occur because the US is such a
vast market. In particular, the ministry is confident that US Jews will continue
to visit Israel in large numbers this year.
According to CBS, 220,000
tourists visited Israel in February, a 2 percent decrease from the previous
year. Last month also saw a 2% increase in cruise arrivals and a 10% year-over-year increase in tourists staying for more than one night.
received 39,065 tourists from the US in February, a year-over-year increase of 5
percent. European tourism to Israel decreased by 8 percent in February, to
127,196 people (tourism from Germany to Israel fell by 7 percent). Tourism from
Asia increased by 23% in February from the year-prior period.
and February, Israel received 466,000 tourists, a 7 percent increase from the
year-prior period, and 388,000 tourists staying over one night, a 13%
However, the number of tourists to Israel coming via land crossings
in February dropped by 83% to 5,000. The ministry attributes the decrease to
occurrences in Egypt.
Shani said that he and his colleagues hope that as
events in Egypt begin to quiet down, more tourists will visit Egypt and cross
into Israel. He believes the number of day trips to Israel by tourists staying
in Sinai, which has three airports, will bounce back because European tour
operators are heavily invested in Sinai tourism.
In a press release,
Misezhnikov stated: “The regional crisis represents a challenge and an
opportunity for tourism in Israel. We will work through all the marketing
channels with a variety of activities in order to position Israel as an
alternative destination for those tourists who, until now, would take their
vacations in other countries in the region. The Tourism Ministry
representatives, working in 17 offices around the world, will expand their
activities with local tourism industry representatives in order to increase
traffic into Israel. Activities that have already taken place over the last few
weeks in Russia and the Ukraine have proven that Israel is seen as an
alternative for tourists wishing to travel to the Middle East
Last week, Misezhnikov was in Russia, where he manned the
500-square-meter Israeli booth at the Moscow International Travel and Tourism
Fair. This week, the Tourism Ministry will operate a booth at the Ukraine
International Travel and Tourism exhibition in Kiev.
Last month, in honor
of Israel’s abolition of visa requirements for Ukrainian tourists, the Tourism
Ministry hosted a party and seminar on Israeli travel opportunities in Kiev,
which was attended by between 300 and 400 people.
In February, 19,017
tourists from Russia and 7,151 tourists from Ukraine (excluding cruise
passengers) visited Israel, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics,
declines of 31 percent and 28 percent from the same period in the previous
Israel received a record number of tourists – 3.45 million – last
year. Shani said the Tourism Ministry’s goal is for Israel to attract 5 million
tourists annually by 2015.