Culture capital status for Jerusalem?

A project of business initiative StartUp Jerusalem Association, the site was launched Wednesday to provide information on what's on and where to go in capital city.

Jerusalem old city 88 (photo credit: )
Jerusalem old city 88
(photo credit: )
Jerusalem, long recognized for its religious and historic appeal, may soon gain status as a culture capital as well if a new Internet portal gets its way. A project of business initiative StartUp Jerusalem Association, the site was launched Wednesday to provide information on what's on and where to go in capital city. "It is possible to alter the face of tourism in Jerusalem," said Nir Barkat, founder of StartUp Jerusalem. "Tourists could boost the city's growth potential by extending their average stay in the city and increasing their overall spending." StartUp reported that just 5 percent of tourists arriving in Jerusalem are consumers of culture events and estimated that 42% of foreign tourists would extend their stay by at least one day if they had adequate knowledge of all the entertainment possibilities the city has to offer. The portal, which has only been launched in English, features links to information about events, restaurants, accommodation, nightlife, sights and culture as well as transportation in and around the city. "Jerusalem offers a rich array of cultural possibilities and an abundance of interesting events and institutions including museums, festivals, folklore groups, dance groups, performances etc.," said Ilanit Malkior, tourism and culture cluster manager at StartUp. "The problem is that until recently, the cultural establishment in Jerusalem did not identify foreign tourists as a target audience that could increase revenue." The portal presents over 300 Jerusalem-based cultural establishments and tourism organizations for the visitors perusal, StartUp said. US, UK tourism on the rise As the tourism industry reflects on a difficult year, the near-end of year statistics have presented some good news from certain niche markets in the foreign visitor count. The Tourism Ministry has reported that 455,000 US tourists arrived in the country in the first 11 months of the year, representing a 9% rise over 2005, while tourism from the UK grew 4% to 147,500. The most dramatic increase so far this year came from Poland which sent 58% more tourists to Israel than in 2005, or 39,600 visitors, and the Czech Republic, which grew 47% to 13,500. Some 1.7 million tourists came to the country between January and November, the ministry said after 116,000 arrived in November alone, 29% less than the parallel month 2005. Over 41,000 surfers at B-G Airport Basking in the recent praise from passengers at Ben-Gurion Airport, the Israel Airports Authority reported that some 41,847 people this year have used the free wireless Internet service available at the facility. The IAA noted that it invested NIS 150,000 to set up the Hotspot, which, given its count of over 3,000 surfers per month, makes it one of the most widely used in the country. While its figures include until half way through December, the IAA said it forecasts the surfer count to reach 5,000 by the end of the final month. The IAA said its users were spread through all sections of the airport. Looking to party on New Year's? While New Year's Eve, or "Sylvester," celebrations may not be big in Israel, travel operator Shelli Tours has given its list of seven hot spots around the world as places Israelis can party their way into 2007. Topping the list and perhaps the most famous of all bashes is New York's Times Square, which this year celebrates the 100th anniversary of "The Crystal Ball" drop, signaling the end of the old and start of the new. If not in the Big Apple, revelers might turn towards the Big Orange Festival in Miami where a 35-foot orange ball is dropped from the adjacent Hotel Inter-Continental at Chopin Plaza. Moving away from the US, the Sydney Harbor always captures the world's interest as the first city to bring in the new year. Shelli Tours next suggests the party move over to Moscow at Kremlin Square and from there to the London Eye and Trafalgar Square. Making the grade this year, Johannesburg's New Year's Eve Carnival could prove the place for partygoers looking for more of an African flavor, while the celebrations at Venice's St. Mark's Square rounds off the whirlwind tour of global New Year's night life.