(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The cabinet will hold an urgent discussion at its meeting on Sunday to allocate $150 million over the next three years to market Israel as a tourist destination abroad, the Tourism Ministry said Thursday.
The discussion comes at the request of Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog who has been under increasing pressure from industry professionals who claim that government has not responded adequately to the need to lift Israel's image as a safe travel destination since the summer's war in Lebanon.
"We are working with emergency intentions to help the tourism industry and restore Israel as an attractive tourist destination on the world map," said Herzog. "In order to make this goal a reality, we need to increase our marketing efforts as a long-term policy within the framework of the budget."
The tourism ministry was given a budget of NIS 35m. for its marketing activities abroad for the remainder of the year, of which it allocated NIS 23m. for direct advertising campaigns in the US and Europe. That amount prompted an outcry by the industry, particularly by the Israel Hotels Association, which is seeking more pressing relief from the negative impact the war had on foreign tourist arrivals and bookings. Whereas before the war, tourism seemed on course to reach a near record 2.4 million arrivals for the year, last year's level of 1.9 million visitors now appears to be an ambitious goal.
A cabinet decision to increase the budget will green light $50m. a year to the ministry from 2007 through 2009.