The government launched its much awaited marketing campaign to encourage Israelis to visit the North Sunday as the local tourism industry seeks to make up for the month lost during the course of the war.
Featuring advertisements in local newspapers, Internet sites and radio stations, the campaign calls on Israelis to vacation in "every area in the North, including Haifa." The push stresses the attractions available and possible lodging options, including hotels, guest houses and youth hostels.
The campaign, under the slogan "Returning to holiday in the North," was co-sponsored by the Tourism Ministry and the Vice Prime Minister's office with participation from the Agriculture Ministry.
In the run up to the campaign, the weekend already saw many Israelis taking to the North. Last week, Kibbutz guest house Gonen said there were requests for tours of places hit by Katyusha rockets and that excursions were being put together to include visits to bomb shelters, sites where rockets fell and look-out points over the Lebanese border.
Corporations have also answered the call to encourage tourism to the embattled area. Last week, pharmaceutical giant Teva said some 5,000 of its workers would take their annual vacations in the North between April and October next year, amounting to over 10,000 overnight hotel lodgings. Similarly, Canadian billionaire Gerry Schwartz donated NIS 1 million through his Heseg Fund for reserve-duty soldiers to take a weekend vacation.
A Tourism Ministry spokesman said the next stage of the plan would be to tackle the foreign market, which saw an immediate decline with the outbreak of the war.
Economists at Bank Leumi noted that data from the Central Bureau of Statistics showed that after the fighting started, the average daily number of tourists arriving into the country fell 40% compared to prior levels. Just 116,000 tourists entered Israel in July down from some 150,000 per month in May and June.
"We believe there will be a continuation of the slide in incoming tourism during the month," the bank said. "However, under the assumption that the stabilization in the security situation will stick, then the beginning of the recovery can be expected in the fourth quarter of this year."