(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
As rockets continued to rain on the North, Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog assured travel-related businesses he would seek compensation for damages to their operations and the loss of business caused by the attacks.
"When looking at the current situation, we are working to ensure that tourist-related businesses damaged by the attacks be compensated and also at the possibility of compensating for the loss of business experienced by the industry," Herzog said in a meeting with tourism businesses in Tiberias Tuesday. He made similar overtures during a meeting in Safed and with the Asher Regional Council.
During his meeting in Safed, Katyusha rockets fell on the city injuring three people.
Herzog noted that, according to the law, compensation is provided for direct damage to businesses if they are situated within a nine-kilometer radius from the border, which does not apply in the case of Tiberias.
Nevertheless, the minister called on the businesses to present clear initial estimates on the costs to their operations that the Tourism Ministry can present to the Treasury. Outgoing Tourism Ministry director general Eli Cohen and his replacement Nahum Itzkovich are scheduled to meet with their Finance Ministry counterpart Yossie Bachar on Wednesday to discuss the matter.
While no collective estimate has been given as to the costs involved, Ruthi Oren-Rachman, manager of the Gai Beach Hotel in Tiberias told The Jerusalem Post that it costs approximately NIS 2 million to run the hotel in "a normal July" - one of the busiest months, when it makes sufficient income to turn a profit.
"Our running costs if we close for the month are NIS 1m. with no income to cover it," she said.
Like most hotels in the city, the Gai Beach had over 80 percent occupancy over the weekend when the first Katyushas hit Tiberias causing a mass exodus among the city's mainly Israeli visitors. Three days later, Oren-Rachman stressed, the hotel does not have one guest in its 200 rooms.
Like most businesses, its biggest expense is salaries that need to be paid for workers who have no reason to go to work.
And while Eilat hotels are enjoying close to 100% occupancy and have controversially removed the special deals usually available to fill the last available spaces, Oren-Rachman said you can get a room in Tiberias at 50% the regular price.
But it's not just the hotels that are suffering from the loss of the tourist trade in.
Pointing at the row of taxis parked next to the main promenade in the city center, taxi driver Gidon Rachmani said he has never seen a war that brought such quiet to his business.
Being self-employed, Rachman expressed little confidence he would receive any compensation for the heavy loss of business he had expected in July that would not be.
Rachman added, however, that he did not expect the situation to have a long-term effect on tourism.
"It's not like the Intifada where there was terror inside the country, which deterred tourists from coming," Rachman said. "The main fighting is across the border and won't influence in the same way but I believe it will take another month until it all ends."
Having an effective strategy to ensure that tourists return to the area was also on Herzog's agenda as he answered calls from businesses to intensify marketing Israel and, in particular the North, once the conflict is over.
"Looking at the day after, we are preparing a strong marketing campaign to ensure that tourism to Israel continues," Herzog said. "For now, Tiberias has the highest priority in our office."