Herzog combating 'war zone' image

Model Bar Rafaeli graces Israel pavilion at London int'l tourism expo.

herzog WTM  (photo credit: Yael Dean / Courtesy)
herzog WTM
(photo credit: Yael Dean / Courtesy)
The Israel pavilion at the World Travel Market (WTM) expo in London was officially opened Monday by Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog, together with Ambassador to Britain Zvi Hefetz, Israeli supermodel Bar Rafaeli and Miss England 2005 Hammasa Kohistani. The international trade show, which runs from November 6-9, is one of the international tourism and travel industry's largest and most important trade events. It brings together buyers and sellers from throughout the world, with the aim of generating new sales leads in the international travel market. "For the travel and tourism industry, there's no better place to identify new markets, learn about the latest travel trends and developments, network and, more importantly, do business," WTM managing director Fiona Jeffery said. The WTM expo is at the Excel Exhibition Center in Canary Warf, London's business capital on the River Thames. An estimated 48,000 exhibitors and visitors will pass through it and 31 Israeli businesses will participate. Among the participants are hotels, airlines, travel agents and car rental companies. Visitors to the large Israeli pavilion will find a giant spa offering Dead Sea mud treatments and massages. There is a Gottex swimwear fashion show twice daily and renowned jeweller Michal Negrin is showcasing Israeli products. A prize drawing for free trips to Israel, in conjunction with Osem and Ahava, is held during "happy hour." "We are concentrating on a major new initiative to get back to the [tourism] market after the war [in Lebanon]," Herzog told The Jerusalem Post. "We want to make it clear that things are calmer and quieter and put tourism back on track. Israel is an amazing place and we are showing lots of self-confidence. "We've just completed some research, which Ernst and Young carried out for us over that last few years," he said. "It showed that Israel is perceived in all the various markets as a war zone and we're trying to change it. It's true we haven't achieved stability, but the lesson from 9/11, Bali, Madrid [and] London has shown us that memories are short and that human beings go traveling, and our aim is to attract people to Israel." Rafaeli said she was honored Herzog invited her to participate in the opening. "It's a great honor to be here and I'm very proud to be representing Israel," she told the Post. "As much as I'm succeeding abroad and in my career, [being here is an opportunity] to explain to people where my roots are from and where I'm from and how special Israel is." Kohistani was invited to attend by the Tourism Ministry. She was born in Afghanistan and was the first Muslim to win the Miss England crown. She has recently been the face of the GAP kids summer campaign. Kohistani told the Post she had received a number of invitations to visit Israel. "I would love to visit, I think it's a beautiful country and has so much to offer," she said. Herzog, Rafaeli and Kohistani visited the Israeli stalls and spoke to the exhibitors before watching a fashion show, put on by Gottex and Michal Negrin, that attracted many visitors.