Netanyahu addresses the first Int'l Tourism Conferenence_311.
(photo credit: Moshe Milner / GPO)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu challenged the country’s tourism industry to
achieve a situation in which there were more tourists than people in Israel, in
an enthusiastic address at the first International Tourism Conference in
Jerusalem on Tuesday night.
Attending the event at the Jerusalem
International Convention Center – the first professional international tourism
gathering to be hosted in the capital – were business and cultural leaders from
around the world, including directors of the world’s most prestigious
Netanyahu said he hoped to open direct flights to the Galilee
region to develop Christian tourism there.
“I watch a lot of late-night
TV, and I watch the Evangelical churches, the television churches, and they call
on people to come to ‘Bible Land’ in Tennessee or Kansas,” Netanyahu said. “This
is the real Bible land; it’s not made of plastic, it’s real and you can see the
actual places where these events took place.”
Netanyahu added that
tourism and hitech were the two most important sectors for developing and
expanding the country’s economy.
Israel hosted 3.5 million tourists in
2010, the country’s biggest year ever for tourism. Visitors spent NIS 3 billion
and supported 3,000 businesses, according to Tourism Minister Stas
“Jerusalem has developed so much in the past few years,”
Yitzhak Eldan – president of the Ambassadors’ Club of Israel, which oversees all
the ambassadors in the country – told The Jerusalem Post.
“A man who
doesn’t visit Jerusalem once in his life hasn’t seen the world,” he
Deputy Mayor for Environment and Planning Naomi Tsur said it
was a “big challenge” to get the conference up and running, to convince the
international arena of the importance of tourism in Israel and Jerusalem in
particular. But she warned that once Jerusalem positioned itself in the
international tourism arena, it would need to have quality attractions to keep
“We need to fill it with more meaningful content; we
need to shy away from kitsch,” she told the Post
. “We need to go for the
spiritual content because that is what we are.”
The conference, which
runs through Thursday, will include panels on branding cities, cultural tourism,
the economic impact of tourism and sustainable development, the role of media in
encouraging tourism, and the impact of technology on tourism, among other
The opening event also included a conversation between Jerusalem
Mayor Nir Barkat and MSNBC host Chris Matthews about the challenges of tourism
in places that have suffered from terrorism and natural disasters, like New York
and Thailand, and what Israel can learn from those places.
the director of the Art Institute of Chicago, told the Post he had no second
thoughts about coming to the conference just a week after a deadly terror attack
across the street from the convention hall.
“It’s always safest to come
after a terrorist attack,” he quipped. “It is very exciting to be here with our
colleagues because we are all involved in the same enterprise, which is
developing highquality exhibitions.”