The Tourism Ministry and Eilat Municipality launched their rebranding of the
southern resort city Wednesday, declaring their aim to make it the “capital of
the Red Sea.”
Pointing to the flight of European tourists from the Sinai
amid political upheaval, they said now was the time to bring those tourists to
Israel by promoting Eilat as the only Western resort town on the Red Sea, and as
an upmarket alternative. In addition, they hope to sway Israelis to visit more
often by reducing the cost of package deals.
“There is nothing better
than Eilat, and nothing like Eilat,” Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov said at
“We’re not inventing something new here. We just need to
market it in a manner that is both unique and Jewish... in order to
differentiate it from other places.”
Neighboring Aqaba, in Jordan, and
Taba, in Egypt, “rob us of tourists,” because they have endless beaches, more
land, and because their cheap employment of Sudanese means prices are lower
there, Meseznikov said.
Israel can’t cooperate with its two southern
neighbors to attract tourists to the Red Sea region, Meseznikov said, because
the type of tourist who comes to Eilat has no desire to go to Aqaba, and
“In Eilat, because it’s Israel’s only resort city, it can
beat its neighbors not through combining with them, but through emphasizing
These are different [tourist] populations
People who love to dive and who have a smaller budget will go
to Aqaba or to Sharm [e- Sheikh, in Egypt]... Those who want extra, who want the
Red Sea along with urban facilities, good restaurants and nightlife, will come
Meseznikov said he also wanted to attract back to Eilat Israelis
who fly to Turkey or Bulgaria because their package tours are
“If we do something they will come to Eilat, because it’s like a
mini version of overseas.
I established a public commission
one-and-a-half months ago to examine the different costs that go into package
tours for Israelis. If we manage to reduce the cost of those package tours by
20-25 percent, believe me, the blue-andwhite tourism market will
NIS 103 million in government funds has been put into a five-year
program, ending 2014, to improve Eilat’s infrastructure.
are already underway, and 28 more are being planned. These include construction
of a new international airport at Timna 18 kilometers north of the city (which
has been approved by cabinet), the revamp of parks and the beachside promenade,
and the opening of sporting and cultural facilities the ministry hopes will
attract worldclass events.
In January, applications will open for
construction of Eilat’s first new hotels in a decade.
The plan is to
focus building around the revamped eastern lagoon, between the Jordanian border
and existing hotels.
The Tourism Ministry allocated NIS 30 million to
promoting Eilat overseas, mainly in selected European countries such as Russia
and Ukraine. It says its efforts are already paying dividends, with around 25
weekly flights expected from Europe throughout winter, a 64% jump since
Marketing company Adler Brands was tasked two years ago with
rebranding Eilat. At Wednesday’s launch it finally presented its campaign –
which will run under the slogans “Eilat+” and “Eilat – more
Managing Director Tamar Reshef explained to the audience
that the campaign will target an upmarket European audience, aiming at people
taking a secondary annual holiday of four to 12 days. The ideal visitor is
someone who wants culture and cuisine on top of the usual sun, sea and sand,
Reshef said. In other words, Eilat is searching for the “new tourist,” the
person who wants “the best of both worlds.”
Eilat Mayor Meir Yitzhak
Halevi said the city would boost its tourist appeal through four simultaneous
programs: improving accessibility through the new airport, better roads and a
planned train line; expanding accommodation; establishing a reputation as an
academic center; and creating a hi-tech precinct.
On the third point,
Halevi said Ben-Gurion University’s Eilat Campus should grow from 800 students
to thousands, creating a vibrant student scene. He said the city planned to lure
hotel and tourism courses away from Beersheba, adding there was no logic to
offering these studies in a city where tourism isn’t the main
“Let’s decide today that in Eilat we will established the
world’s largest academic center for hospitality and tourism... the meaning of
this will be a city that speaks tourism,” Halevi said.