As Israel's hoteliers reflect on a year that brought lower occupancies and fewer bookings than expected, they again called on the government to pass with greater urgency a $50 million budget to market the country as a travel destination to boost the recovery from the war in Lebanon. "We estimate that only on condition that a $50m. marketing budget be given to the Tourism Ministry in the coming days, will we begin to feel the recovery in the second quarter of the year," said Ronnie Pivko, vice-president of the Israel Hotels Association at the IHA's year-end review Sunday. Transferring the money immediately, Pivko said, would ensure Tourism's contribution of $3.8 billion to GDP in 2007, an increase of $400m. from 2006. Before the war, tourism was forecast to generate $5.5b. for the country in 2006. Even with the $50m. marketing effort, therefore, the country would still be short $1.7b. in 2007 from where it had hoped to be in 2006. If the additional funds are not approved soon, "the country will lose a lot more," the IHA said. In November, consulting firm Ernst & Young published a report at the request of the Tourism Ministry, providing a road map for growth in the industry in which it recommended a $250m. budget over the next five years to promote Israel abroad. "We order the reports, publish their results but in practice nothing happens," said Eli Gonen, president of the IHA. In response, Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog said he has requested the marketing budget from the Finance Ministry and would raise the issue again. The IHA's review of 2006 highlighted the swing experienced in the industry from the successes of the first half of the year to the post war slowdown in the second half. It reported that the year ended with 78,000 people employed in tourism, of which 29,000 were in the hotels, compared to the 100,000 and 31,000, respectively, forecast before the war. It estimated the total loss of income for tourism to be $1 billion because of the month-long war. The year-end tourist count totaled 1.8 million, well below the 2.4 million expected at the beginning of the year, the hoteliers said. Those figures converted to 6.8 million overnight stays by tourists in the country's hotels, next to 12.5 million Israeli lodgings. The 46,500 available rooms stood on average 58% full for the year after the IHA had predicted a 63% occupancy.