PRESUMABLY THE excitement of the previous evening had its effect on outgoing Tourism Minister Ruhama Avraham-Balila, who was scheduled to launch the International Mediterranean Tourism Market Wednesday morning in Tel Aviv. Tourism Ministry director-general Shaul Tzemach expected to find her there when he arrived at the Trade Fairs and Convention Center, but instead found himself talking to a llama. Avraham-Balila, who in all probability will not find herself in the Ministry of Tourism once the next government convenes, left it to Tzemach to do the honors.
Given the sharp decline in tourism to Israel, and that Tel Aviv is celebrating its centenary this year, the IMTM is a very important marketing tool. Representatives from about 20 countries on three continents are participating, together with some 200 Israeli tourist-oriented enterprises. In addition, merchants from the South have set up booths to sell their wares.
The IMTM gives tourism professionals an opportunity to meet with colleagues, buyers and suppliers who represent or are interested in eco-tourism, wellness, cultural tourism, beach holidays, city breaks, package deals, tailor-made trips or conference venues. All these options can be explored on-site and discussed during the conferences, events and presentations that are held in conjunction with the exhibition.
IMTM 2009 is being held under the auspices of the Tourism Ministry, the Israel Hotel Association and the Association for Tourism Tel Aviv-Jaffa, as well as El Al and the Israel Tourist and Travel Agents Association.
UBIQUITOUS AMONG the benefits of modern technology is the laptop, which for some people is as permanent an accessory as scarves, shoes, gloves or tights. Coffee shops have become favorite haunts for people addicted to their laptops. Commuters use them on the bus, the train and in flight. Business people use them at conventions, and journalists use them when reporting their assignments. The drawback is that not everyone is happy about carrying them around. For many people, including those who really need them, laptops are a drag, because the batteries on the lightest ones don't last for more than 90 minutes and the larger ones that are fitted with long-lasting batteries are just too heavy and cumbersome to cart from place to place.
That problem has more or else been obviated for guests of the Dan Hotel chain, where deputy marketing manager Rafi Beeri and Boaz Arbel, the CEO of Smartnet, which supplies laptops and other communication equipment, have reached an agreement whereby Dan guests will be able to use laptops that can operate in wireless zones free of charge. There will be a charge of NIS 70 per day for surfing the Internet, but there will be no fee for the laptop. Smartnet will make 25 laptops available in the initial phase of the operation at an investment of NIS 50,000. Supply will increase in accordance with demand. The laptops will eventually be available at all Dan hotels, but initially the service is available at the King David in Jerusalem, Dan Tel Aviv, Dan Eilat, Dan Panorama Haifa and Dan Boutique Jerusalem.
WHILE DEMOGRAPHIC statistics point to ever-growing numbers of native Israelis, Israel nonetheless continues to be a country of immigrants. No matter how well or how poorly an immigrant adjusts, there's always something from the old country that's missing in the new country. Thirty or 40 years ago, new-immigrant Israelis from western countries hankered for white tuna, smoked salmon, specialty breads and cheeses, vanilla-flavored coffee and many other food products that are now readily available in Israel. In fact, almost anything that one can get abroad can also be purchased here.
Among the things still difficult to find are closets, cabinets and chests of drawers with solid-wood backs, medium- and large-sized clothing that really does conform with the size marked on the label, high boots for people with fat legs, and footwear in half sizes and varying widths. Someone with a short but broad foot is in deep trouble. Immigrants also miss familiar brand names, especially on cleaning products, cosmetics and medications so that they can read the directions. In Israel, the directions are generally in Hebrew and/or Arabic, and occasionally Russian - none of which employ the Latin alphabet. Even when the language problem extends minimally to clothing or footwear, where there are no directions other than perhaps a warning with regard to cleaning, the familiar is still something that has a magnetic attraction.
American immigrants who wore Naturalizer shoes and boots in the US will be happy to learn that they are also available in Israel - and can be purchased in different heel and leg heights. Their popularity in the US stems from the fact that they're designed with both fashion and comfort in mind, with flexible insoles, featherweight outsoles, ergonomic heels and toes with extra cushioning underfoot, and linings that allow the foot to breathe. Naturalizer footwear is also reasonably priced and is available primarily at the Mix chain of stores that specialize in comfort brands.
FOR THE second consecutive year, Strauss has received recognition for its innovative products. It recently received four Product of the Year awards in the categories of honey, olive oil, salted snacks and coffee. Some of the products were developed in conjunction with Yad Mordechai. Product of the Year is a worldwide concept introduced 20 years ago and currently operates in 26 countries.
Product of the Year recognizes and rewards innovation in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods sector. Voted for by members of the public, it helps consumers find the best new products and helps manufacturers boost sales. Because more than 2,000 members of the public decide on the products that most appeal to them, the products are given a significant boost on supermarket shelves. In Israel it is organized by Forum Shivuk.
IF YOU want to take a brief vacation away from Israel just to clear your head from all the political campaigning to which you have been subjected in recent weeks, and you happen to have an Isracard credit card, you can enjoy reduced fares on El Al flights to destinations in Europe at prices ranging from $350 to $490, and to other continents at prices ranging from $650 to $1100. Isracard users can pay for their tickets in monthly installments.
Those traveling on cheaper routes will hardly notice the monthly payments. The catch is that they have to make their reservations by March 5 for departures up to March 27, returning not later than March 31. This follows the El Al campaign to bring Israelis living, working or vacationing abroad home to vote. Quite a large number of Israelis took advantage of the low fares to come home briefly for this purpose.