Sunset at the Leonardo Hotel Ashkelon’s pool.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
After Operation Protective Edge, last summer’s war with Gaza, hit the tourism industry hard, the Israel Hotel Association expects continued fallout through the first half of 2015.
According to the association’s president, Eli Gonen, the number of nights tourists spent in hotels had risen 16 percent in the first half of 2014 (compared to the previous year), only to fall by 26% in the second half, leading to an overall drop of 6%.
In 2015, he expects the decline to continue by 20% in the first quarter and 10% in the second. Aside from the aftermath of the war, he says, recent months have been difficult due to violence in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, condemnations of Israel abroad and warnings against travel to the North over border tensions.
“That said, we learned from experience and know that everything is liquid, and the picture can change in a short period of time,” Gonen added, sounding a note of optimism at the group’s national summit on Sunday.
The tourism industry is important in Israel, he said, employing 215,000 people and producing NIS 48 billion of output. With the gradual price drop in airplane tickets due to the Open Skies agreement, things may get better.
That said, Gonen called for reducing regulation and creating a national body to linking the tourism businesses – hoteliers, tourism organizers, airlines, tour guides and so on – to the product they are selling: Israel. The political instability has made it difficult to put such plans together, because nobody holds the Tourism portfolio long enough to get anything done.
“Our expectations for the election are high,” Gonen said. “The parties cannot declare social plans for reducing the costs of housing and living without taking care of the increase in national income and giving people employment. Sources of funding for various programs are in tourism, thus we expect that in coalition negotiations, the parties will fight over the Tourism portfolio in order to advance Israel to the position of ‘Tourist Nation,’” he continued.
He even went so far as to list the association’s choice for possible tourism ministers from various parties: Ophir Akunis from Likud, Stav Shaffir from Labor, Yael German from Yesh Atid, Yinon Magal from Bayit Yehudi, Michael Oren from Koolanu and Orly Levy-Abecassis from Yisrael Beytenu.