The 13th International Mediterranean Tourism Market (IMTM) opened in Tel Aviv Tuesday amid optimism the event would spark interest for a positive year for tourism to Israel.
"I certain hope the event will give the industry a boost for the year," said Eyal Shmueli, publisher of Israel Travel News and co-organizer of the event. "We have had a lot of interest in the event from abroad."
Representatives from over 30 countries were scheduled to participate in the two-day event, billed as the country's largest tourism fair and as a show-piece for the local industry.
It also attracted a record number of African exhibitors with Angola, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Mozambique sending representatives for the first time.
"We see Israel as a new market for us because we see a lot of interested in adventure tourism and other areas we have to offer," said Cecil J. Williams, general manager of the Sierra Leone National Tourism Board. "We have a lot of business travel from Israelis and want to break into the leisure market here so we decided it was time to start preparing for that."
Similarly, the Hungarian National Tourism Board said at the event it was reopening its representative office, in Israel which it closed three years ago, in an attempt to better penetrate the Israeli market.
Yet, while international visitors were aiming to attract locals to their respective countries, much of the hype at the fair was created by Israeli tourism organizations showing off their displays at the Tel Aviv Exhibition and Fair Grounds.
"The event is an opportunity for us to network," said one industry professional. " And for the public to see what Israel has to offer."