Israel Beiteinu's Aharonovitch sorry to leave Tourism Ministry

Learned party was bolting gov't while on visit to Paris

Ten months after becoming tourism minister, Yitzhak Aharonovitch of Israel Beiteinu learned Wednesday that his party had resigned from the government while on an official visit to France. The Israeli governmental system does not allow ministers to complete their full terms, leading to unstable administration, Aharonovitch told The Jerusalem Post. "Israel Beiteinu [has] struggled to change this situation, but political issues [have stalled] a bill to change the structure of the political system," he said. "Even though I regret the ending of my term and parting from the tourism industry... there is no doubt in my mind that the skilled staff in the Tourism Ministry will continue leading it and the field to success," Aharonovitch said. During his short term as minister, Aharonovitch worked to implement an Open Skies policy and to expand the number of foreign airlines flying to Israel. These efforts focused on expanding the seat capacity to and from Israel and on increasing of the frequency of regular flights. As a result, new carriers will be seen in Israel's skies in 2008, including Delta; the British airlines BMI and Thomsonfly; the French Corsair and Axis Airways; the Belgium Jet-Air. The Tourism Ministry has launched tourism campaigns in North America, Germany, Britain, Russia to attract visitors to Israel for its 60th anniversary and beyond; by 2012, 5 million tourists are expected to visit annually. Aharonovitch signed a tourism deal with China. Japan's tourism wholesalers also started to market vacation packages to Israel in 2007, and in 2008 a defunct air route between South Korea and Israel will be renewed. Ten tourism agreements were signed with North American companies such as American Express and Grand Circle Travel to market vacation packages to Israel. Currently, the Tourism Ministry has 80 similar agreements with companies across the world. Aharonovitch also proposed that Israel, Russia, Romania and Ukraine reciprocally cancel the need for their citizens to apply for tourist visas to visit each others' countries. As a result, around 300,000 Russians are expected to visit Israel in 2008, as well as 20,000 Romanians. Canceling the visa requirement is expected add around NIS 300 million from Russian tourists alone to the economy in 2008. The ministry also invested $1.2m. in a marketing campaign in Russia and more than $3m. is slated to go to boost Russian tourism this year. In 2007, the Tourism Ministry invested NIS 120m. in tourist infrastructure in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Tiberias, Acre, Nazareth and Safed. The ministry granted tour operators a total of NIS 50m. to establish new hotels across the country. More than NIS 100m. was approved to boost the country's hotel industry in 2008, and financial assistance was issued to establish more than 100 guest rooms in the Galilee and the Negev.