The Carmel’s calling out for tourists

Tourism pros urge visitors to spend the night.

By RON FRIEDMAN
December 7, 2010 02:59
3 minute read.
The Carmel Forest Spa Resort.

Carmel forest spa resort 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Dafna Nof, director of the Carmelim tourism board, returned home on Monday with a heavy heart from her first visit back to the Carmel since the outbreak of the forest fire.

On the one hand, she was happy that relatively little damage was suffered to the hotels and tourism sites, but on the other hand, she was heartbroken by the destruction to the natural environment that draws people to the region in the first place.

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“The Carmel looks and smells like a giant pile of cinders.

Thankfully, the hotels remained for the most part intact, aside from Ya’arot HaCarmel, which suffered fire damage to its dining room.

But the forest is devastated,” said Nof, who manages the tourism board for the region stretching between Haifa and Hadera. “The beautiful forest that offered hiking tours, jeep rides, downhill biking... is totally destroyed. The forest, which made the region such a draw for tourists, is simply no longer there.”

However, not one to stay down in the dumps for too long, Nof is determined to turn the tragedy into a victory.

“The first thing to do,” she said, “is to launch a widespread marketing campaign to regain the tourists that we lost over the last week. We have to let everybody know that the Carmel suffered a severe blow, but that we are still here and still open for business.”



Nof said that she anticipates that the first wave of tourists to return to the Carmel will be “morbidity tourists,” people who come to inspect disaster areas out of morbid curiosity. “I anticipate that we will start seeing them arrive in the upcoming days. It’s a start, but of course we can’t depend on them for the long term. It’s also not clear that they will come to spend the night here and contribute to the local hotel industry.”

A market that may have more promise is “solidarity tourists.”

Nof said she calls on everyone who wants to aid in the Carmel recovery effort to come and spend a night or a weekend at one of the region’s hotels.

“In this way, they can both come and see the destruction first-hand as well as support local businesses who suffered a terrible few days under the threat of the flames and who lost customers due to the evacuation.”

Nof said that average occupancy rates for this time of year stand at roughly 60 percent and that the hotels, restaurants, galleries and attractions, which were counting on a busy week because of Hanukka, experienced significant losses.

She estimated the total losses to the tourism industry at several million shekels.

“The physical damage is minor; the long-term damage is in the potential tourism loss because of the perception of the region now as a disaster area. The hotels may be open and operating, but who wants to stay in a place you associate with death and destruction? I hope it isn’t a perception that sticks,” she said.

Nof has called on members of the tourism industry to attend an emergency conference to save Carmelim to be held later in the month, during which plans will be draw up on how to rehabilitate tourism regions that have suffered natural disasters.

“We hope to come out with a plan of action for us, but ideally it will be a basis for future actions in other disaster-ridden places,” she said.

Yogev Sarid, chairman of the finance and business development department of the Moshavim movement, said that despite media reports, the damage to the forest was not as bad as many believed.

“On the coast and on the southern and eastern parts of the Carmel Mountain, there are many areas that weren’t damaged by the fire and people can come out and enjoy nature and the special sites,” Sarid said.

“There are 300 rooms in the hotels and the rural cottages that are just waiting for visitors.

Now is the time to come and visit the tourism attractions that the Carmel region has to offer and strengthen the hands of the local residents after the difficult days they experienced.”

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