tourism conference 88.
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Tourism Ministry Director-General Nahum Itzkovich on Wednesday unveiled a marketing plan aimed at doubling the number of incoming tourists by 2009.
According to Itzkovich, head of the ministry's marketing division Oren Drori and Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog, an infusion of $50 million to the Ministry's marketing budget would boost the number of incoming tourists to four million in two years.
For more than 20 years, the Ministry published statements in which it predicted that tourism for the end of any given year would be at least two million. And although the numbers were on track to exceed that number last year, they ultimately came up about 200,000 short of the goal - a factor attributed to the second war in Lebanon, even though the war did bring numerous Jewish and non-Jewish solidarity missions to the country.
Speaking at a news conference at the 13th International Mediterranean Tourism Market (IMTM), Itzkovich and Drori, said the marketing plan was adopted by Herzog on the basis of the report and recommended five-year plan received from Ernst & Young, in full cooperation with the different branches of the tourism industry, namely the Hotels Association, tourist organizations, aviation companies, tour guides and others.
Representatives from all these branches will sit on a marketing board together with representatives of the Tourism Ministry, said Itzkovich.
The success of the plan depends on a favorable reply from the Finance Ministry to Herzog's request for a substantial increase in the Tourism Ministry's marketing budget. Herzog was expected to meet this week with Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson regarding the increased funding.
The Tourism Ministry has worked out three scenarios, the first of which is the most optimistic - namely that it will receive the $50m. and be able to go ahead with its plans. The second is that it will receive a smaller allocation, which when added to the existing allocation would come to $50m., and the third, the worst case scenario, will be that the Finance Ministry denies Herzog's request altogether.
Herzog, however, was not prepared to accept a negative response, and said he would continue to fight for additional funding.
"It's time that the government and the Treasury understood that every addition to the marketing budget will bring direct returns to the industry and the economy and will create new job opportunities," he said. "The continuation of the status quo will bring about stagnation and will hamper our abilities to enable the tourist industry to flourish. Without an increase to the budget, it's an impossible mission."
According to the Ernst & Young Report, every dollar invested in marketing Israel abroad, will bring nine additional dollars to the Israeli economy.
In the event of a best case scenario, with an additional $50m. at its disposal, the yet-to-be convened Tourism Marketing Board would focus on promoting a radical change of Israel's image in four target countries: the US, Germany, Britain and France, and also work towards creating demand in Russia, Italy, Ireland and Scandinavia for Israel as a tourist destination.
If the Finance Ministry agrees to increase the marketing budget, but by considerably less than $50m., the change of image plan will be directed at only one target market - the US, but efforts to promote Israel as a tourist destination will be enhanced in Germany, Britain, France, Russia and Italy. Under these circumstances the Ministry anticipates that tourism figures will climb to three million by 2009.
If there is no additional budgetary allocation to the existing NIS 100m., the Ministry will not be able to do much beyond preserving the marketing pipeline and engaging in limited field activities.
If this happens, said Drori, "it will block any ability to widen our marketing circle and to mount any significant ongoing campaigns."
The ideal plan includes large scale advertising in international media and via the Internet, as well as numerous promotional field activities, the recruitment of new wholesalers and improved relations with all airline companies flying into Israel.
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