Pay now, stay later, project for tourism to North

A new effort has been launched to rescue the floundering tourist industry in the North. The project, called "The Galilee Spirit," is a joint volunteer effort of businessman Avi Shaked, the Tikshuv corporation and the Ministry for Negev and Galilee Development. The project's goal is to help the Galilee hospitality industry, which has been disastrously affected by tourist cancellations due to the fighting in the North. The concept is unique. Rather than asking for donations, the Galilee hotel and bed-and-breakfast industry is selling vouchers good for any week-day stay in the North until June 30, 2007. So while the money will be paid to the operators immediately, helping to prevent a total collapse of the industry, the use of the voucher can be delayed for up to 11 months. All parties involved in developing and running the project are volunteering their services and resources, the project's initiators emphasized. Shaked supplied the operating budget, while the Tikshuv corporation, which operates call centers for other companies, has contributed the call center for the project's hot line. The whole project is managed and supported by Vice Premier Shimon Peres and the Ministry for Negev and Galilee Development that he heads. Tourists wishing to take part in the project can reserve rooms at either $80 or $120 per night for a couple. The payment will go directly to the hotel or bed-and-breakfast operators, allowing them to stay in business while fighting continues to rage on the northern border and rockets continue to fall throughout the Galilee. The project can be reached on the Internet at, from North America at 1-800-738-0548 and from Israel at 1-800-200-288. An e-mail address is also available for inquiries: