Tourists at Kotel 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
How can thousands of jobs be created in the tourism sector to help overcome the
challenges imposed by the global economic crisis? How do early signs of climate
change impact on international tourist trends and opportunities? How do global
security challenges on land, sea and air affect the free flow of tourists across
open borders? All these questions and more will be at the center of discussion
for this week’s historic conference of the Tourism Committee of the Organization
for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Earlier this year, we witnessed
our historic entry into this prestigious body of international
With our name added to the list of nation-states represented in
the OECD, membership serves as an all-important recognition of the leading
stance we have come to play in regional and global economic
The choice of Israel as the site for this important
conference should be a source of pride for the country’s residents and indeed
all Israelis and friends of Israel around the globe. As the home to some of the
world’s most revered tourist sites and a place where history and modernity
combine as in few other locales, we know our country is truly unique – and we
take great satisfaction in being able to share this special status with our
fellow members of the OECD.
By exposing this remarkable land to leaders
of the travel industry, tourism executives and delegates from around the world,
we are confident that this week’s events will enable us to share our national
pride in our country, which is well suited to become a global leader in
While this is certainly an ambitious goal, it is one we firmly
believe to be in the realm of possibility within the foreseeable future. In the
first 10 months of 2010 alone, we have recorded over 2.5 million foreign
tourists, a very impressive 27 percent increase over the year prior; and these
numbers are consistently on the rise.
Through a combination of
governmental and private investment in a variety of travel-related initiatives
all over the country, we are steadily developing the necessary infrastructure to
even more significantly increase the number of tourists we welcome each
WE FURTHER know that the OECD’s choice of Israel to host this
conference acts as a vote of confidence in our strength as a global economic
force and a nation with a great deal to contribute to our partner OECD
Yet, beyond the obvious historic nature of this conference for
the government and people of Israel, it is at its heart a working conference
dedicated to new trends in the tourist industry. We are confident that here too
we have a great deal to offer.
Throughout our modern existence, Israel
has proven that tourism is a key means of encouraging dialogue with other
nations, generating domestic growth and highlighting our nation’s remarkable
history. With our entry into the OECD, we are that much better positioned to
share those experiences and lessons with our partner nations.
appreciate that the modern world presents the travel industry with a unique set
of challenges to ensure that we are an environmentally responsible industry. As
a member of the OECD, we believe that this is a commitment that we will now be
that much better positioned to uphold.
As an industry that sees the
transporting of hundreds of millions of people around the globe each year,
principally by air travel, we know that tourism ministries must play a part in
designing innovative and lasting solutions to address humanity’s impact on
climate change. We are very proud that local researchers and companies are
playing a role in designing specific innovations in this all important realm, as
will be highlighted in the conference.
While the people of Israel are
able to take great satisfaction and national pride in our accomplishments in the
fields of hi-tech, academia, biotechnology and numerous other areas where we are
leaders, we know all too well that the world rarely associates us with these
aspects of our existence.
As an OECD member, I firmly believe that we
must therefore embrace this chance to highlight these positives. And in so doing
we will enable our friends, and even our adversaries, to better appreciate the
value that is represented by the Jewish state and allow us to make a lasting
impact on the global tourism industry.The writer is minister of tourism.
The Ministry of Tourism is the official host of the OECD Tourism Committee’s
86th meeting being held in Jerusalem from October 20-22.