Tourism Ministry approves plans to develop cities in the Negev desert

The ministry intends to construct two new tourism complexes, one in the Beersheba River Park and the other in the Mitzpe Ramon Municipality.

Overhead view of Beersheba (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Overhead view of Beersheba
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Tourism Ministry on Wednesday approved plans to develop areas of Beersheba and Mitzpe Ramon as part of its Desert Tourism Project.
The ministry intends to construct two new tourism complexes, one in the Beersheba River Park and the other in the Mitzpe Ramon Municipality.
In Beersheba, it hopes to build an overnight camping ground, which will include 250 beds in addition to related sports and leisure facilities.
In Mitzpe Ramon, the ministry looks to build a 70-unit hotel overlooking the urban area of the city. This plan falls in line with the current urban planning trend, which is based on integrating tourism and hotels within the residential areas of the city.
The plans for the two southern Israeli cities rests on the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, which the ministry sees as preparation for the return of tourism following the re-introduction of international travel.
"Especially during this period, continued entrepreneurship and infrastructure development in the tourism industry is of paramount importance," said Israel Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen. "Emphasis should be placed on strengthening tourism infrastructure projects as part of the economic growth engines in the Israeli economy, against the background of the corona crisis."
The newly approved developments build upon pre-existing plans the Tourism Ministry had for the Negev preceding the coronavirus outbreak, and subsequent bans and freezes on international travel. This includes the establishment of cycling trails and hospitality complexes that blend in suitably with the desert landscape and atmosphere.
"The construction of new tourism complexes in the Negev is a direct continuation of our objective to develop the Negev and the Arava. We are currently working on the development of the 'desert tourism product', which has huge potential and will lead to economic growth and increased employment opportunities in the area," Farkash-Hacohen added.
Israel had an unprecedented year of incoming tourism in 2019, with approximately 4.55 million tourists visiting the Jewish state. With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, those numbers declined to only thousands.
Considering that tourism might be the last industry to recover from the global health crisis, the ministry decided to focus on bolstering the tourism infrastructure around the country, so that when the industry bounces back it may be able to contribute to the economy better than ever.
The desert tourism product development program is aimed at strengthening tourism industries of the Negev and the Arava. The ministry provides grants to bankroll local entrepreneurs to develop tourism infrastructure and complexes across the desert landscape, encouraging the development of the hospitality and accommodation industries within the southern area of Israel - which the ministry purports is an untapped gem that could significantly contribute to the regional and state economy, bringing jobs to the periphery.
"The Negev region is rich in sites that make it attractive for both domestic and foreign tourism. Plans for establishing hotels and other hospitality options are a central and important part in defining the developing tourism product in the Negev," said Tourism Ministry representative and head of planning Sigal Gabay. "The Southern District committee advances tourist plans that pay heed to the unique characteristics of the area and the emerging trends in the field of tourism."