Meseznikov accomplishes much in Tourism Ministry

Analysis: Tourism professionals hope Stas Meseznikov’s successor as minister will be "as good as he was."

311_Stas Meseznikov (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
311_Stas Meseznikov
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
Outgoing Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov (Yisrael Beytenu) can look back on his four years in office with satisfaction at a series of important accomplishments, even if his exit turns out to be solely the result of reports about hard-drinking escapades unbecoming of a minister.
In talks with Israeli tourism insiders on Tuesday, Meseznikov was described as a man who did above average work in a ministry whose portfolio he held longer than anyone else in the past 20 years.
Meseznikov presided over the ministry during three consecutive years (2010- 2012) when Israel set all-time records for incoming tourism, as the days of the second intifada faded further into the rear-view mirror and the country experienced consistent quiet and a thriving economy.
For Shmuel Tzurel, head of the Israel Hotel Owners Association, the hope is only that “whoever runs the ministry next will be as good as he was,” and credited Meseznikov for his efforts to help the Dead Sea, “without which it would not have survived.”
Tzurel was referring to the government decision made in February, which approved the investment of NIS 833 million over the next five years towards the rehabilitation of the Dead Sea, mainly through repairing infrastructure damaged by changing water levels, and refurbishing attractions in the area. The plan was heavily supported by Meseznikov and he is widely seen as being responsible for securing government support for the plan.
In addition to his success in keeping the Dead Sea alive, Meseznikov can rest his laurels on two other accomplishments: the mutual cancellation of the need for tourist visas for Russia and Ukraine (an issue of serious importance for his party’s key constituency of Israelis with roots in the former Soviet Union) and founding the government committees to reduce the price of hotel stays in Israel and a new framework for rating hotels.
At the end of the day though, Meseznikov’s term could be judged mainly by the reports of his personal escapades and his inability to bring about real advancement in the reduction of hotel prices in Israel, an effort complicated by the high operating costs and shortage of rooms at hotels across the country.
Nonetheless, as one tourism industry source said, “a former boss told me 80 percent of success is timing, and the other 20% is connections.”
Meseznikov had the good fortune to take the reins of the ministry during a time of great security and economic prosperity in Israel, during which incoming tourism rates were rising in countries across the world.
That said, the minister announced his impending resignation less than two weeks after the end of Operation Pillar of Defense, which, according to his ministry, has resulted in a 20% drop in hotel reservations for incoming tourists. To repair this backward trend Israel could need a concerted government outreach effort and a long period of quiet, rarely a sure thing in this region.
At the end of the day, Meseznikov did a good job of steering a ship sailing in calm waters, whose product – the Holy Land, the Dead Sea, and the hedonism of Tel Aviv – will always remain a draw.
What’s important now is that the incoming minister continue the steps in the right direction that were taken in the previous four years, starting with the push to bring down the costs for those very tourists Israel is now looking to get back.