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The Succot week has given a timely breath of life to the tourism industry as large numbers of Jewish and Christian visitors spent the holiday in the country, albeit not as many as last year.
Both mass events, which have become musts on the Jerusalem Succot list of things to do - the priestly blessing at the Western Wall (Kotel) and the annual parade in the capital - had record attendance. Although also popular among locals, they indicated some tourism success for the week. The International Christian Embassy said 5,000 evangelical Christians from 80 different countries made the trip this Tabernacle season and Jerusalem hotels had around 90% occupancy for the week. The revival is hardly a recovery, however, and is expected to be very shortlived as the industry views with grave concern the next two months as new airline and hotel bookings have been slow to come in.
The prospects of a cold winter have led to new calls to the government to increase its marketing abroad of Israel as a travel destination.
MK Yoram Marciano, chairman of the tourism lobby in the Knesset, said this week he would request an emergency discussion in the government on ways to help the tourism industry deal with the crisis brought about by the war in Lebanon . "It's impossible to rehabilitate tourism with tens of thousands of its workers under threat of losing their jobs, and at the same time cut our international marketing budget," he said. "We can bring back the pre-war tourism growth and create thousands of jobs but we must demand the appropriate budget be given [to the Tourism Ministry]. Any other [budget], and we will pay a high price for the neglect."
Shortly after the war, the government approved NIS 35 million for the Tourism Ministry's marketing campaign abroad, which a Ministry spokesperson said was launched two weeks ago across Europe and North America.
Hot hotels make their mark
The Dead Sea Le Meridien Hotel was listed as one of the world's best resorts for the second year running in the World Travel Awards of the International Tourism Organization. The hotel said it received the honor based on a poll of 176,000 voters from 110,000 travel agencies around the world. The Hotel's manager David Oz attributed the high rating to the millions of shekels that have been invested to upgrade the hotel and the extensive training given to its employees. The Meridien has 600 rooms, four swimming pools and 25 treatment rooms on its campus.
Sheraton Towers join the club
The Sheraton Tel Aviv Hotel & Towers recently completed the renovation of its Club level rooms and suites after commissioning an international team of architects, fashion, interior and graphic designers for the project. The new look club level rooms, spanning three floors at the hotel, feature Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Beds, computerized bedside panels, fully stocked mini bars, deluxe bathroom accessories, a Nespresso coffee machine, 32" LCD TVs with a multitude of cable channels and pay TV, direct dial telephones and Wi-Fi Internet connection.