The Israel Hotel Association called on the Finance Ministry on Monday to establish a proper marketing authority for the country's tourism industry and also to allocate significantly more financial resources to market Israel's tourism sector around the world.
"Everyone wins if the tourism industry prospers. More jobs are being opened in the center and in the peripheries, the country enjoys a higher income and the cities' additional income enables further municipal development," said Eli Gonen, president of the Israel Hotel Association.
Gonen spoke at a press conference held ahead of Tuesday's Hoteliers Committee meeting.
According to Gonen, the country's tourism industry recorded impressive growth in 2007, as a record 2.3 million tourists visited the country this year and some 17,000 new workers were hired. Forecasts predict that 23,000 workers will be hired by tourist-related businesses in 2008.
Industry leaders, however, noted that a lack of proper funding was hampering further growth in the sector. "A marketing budget of only NIS 210 million at the Tourism Ministry is just not enough," said Ami Hirschstein, chairman of the Marketing Committee in the Hotel Association. "This budget includes the budgets for marketing domestic tourism, financing the Ministry's chambers abroad and more - this amount will not allow us to meet all of our aspirations in this field," he explained.
Hirschstein further claimed that a year ago, a thorough and external report ordered by the Tourism Ministry and conducted by the accounting firm Ernst & Young determined that Israel was not considered to be one of the world's top tourist destinations. The report said that in order to improve Israel's tourism image around the world, a budget of $50m. is needed solely for international marketing.
Meanwhile, the association reported that almost one-third of tourism industry workers, some 30,000 people, are hotel employees. Over 50 percent of them are women, 15% are newly arrived immigrants and 20% are minorities. Recent numbers from the Hotel Association point to a shortage of 2,000 workers today - a number that will continue to grow, said Gonen, if budgets for training new manpower are not allocated.
The tourism industry contributed some $4.1 billion to state revenue this year, the association said.
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