As the tourism industry enjoys some temporary relief from its woes over the holiday period, it is faced with a cold winter season as the low level of bookings for the rest of the year enhance the likelihood of massive job cuts in the sector.
"If something drastic is not done to boost Israel's image abroad and boost foreign tourism we may have to layoff as many as 30 percent of the tourism work force," said Eli Gonen, president of the Israel Hotels Association.
The industry has been in a lull since the war in Lebanon put the brakes on the tourism high enjoyed in the first half of the year.
Gonen would not say how many jobs had been cut since the war started, explaining that until now there had not been widespread lay-offs as businesses had received assistance from the government, which helped them pay salaries, and due to the relatively busy holiday season.
Gonen stressed, however, that a crisis could still be avoided and called on the Government to step up its marketing of Israel to boost tourism - even for November-December.
Tourism Ministry Spokesperson Pnina Ben Ami said in response that most of the government's NIS 35 million campaign was launched two weeks ago and that the remaining activities, consisting mainly of advertising in the London Underground, would take shape in mid-October.
Ben Ami reported that of the NIS 23m. allocated for advertising, NIS 13m. was being spent in Europe, NIS 4.5m. each in Germany, the UK and Russia, a small amount in Italy and Scandinavia and the remaining NIS 10m. in North America. A further NIS 12m. has been allocated to general marketing activities.
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