Barkat to invest in boosting J’lem’s image

Mayor unveils goal to increase tourism from 3 million to 10 million people by 2020.

Barkat J'lem Economic Forum 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Barkat J'lem Economic Forum 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Jerusalem’s tourism marketing budget will grow from NIS 3 million to NIS 70m., Mayor Nir Barkat announced at the Jerusalem Economic Forum, held at the Biblical Zoo on Sunday night. The event, which also featured Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov (Israel Beiteinu) as a keynote speaker, focused on the capital’s leadership position in Israeli tourism.
“Our vision for the city is to turn Jerusalem into a focal point for pilgrims, for tourists, for business people, for young people,” Barkat told the crowd of 200. He outlined a plan aimed at increasing tourism in the city by 15 percent each year, from the current 3 million to 10 million tourists annually by 2020.
“We have a lot of opportunities,” Barkat said. “Every child in the world knows what Jerusalem is, but we need to open up and market the city differently. Now, we need to figure out what direction to take the marketing in order to realize our goals.”
Increasing the number of available hotel rooms and improving convention centers are keys to increasing tourism in the city, Barkat said. The municipality hopes to overhaul the Binyanei Hauma convention center with a NIS 100m. renovation plan as part of a new complex at the city entrance. There is also a NIS 400m. municipal initiative to promote the construction of new hotels.
“This is our strongest brand,” Meseznikov said of the city. “Every single person should want to visit Jerusalem at least once in his life – for evangelicals, and for Jews, and for Muslims.”
About 80% of the tourists who come to Israel visit the capital, making it the country’s leading city for tourism.
Each month in 2010 set a new tourism record for the number of visitors, the minister said, and there were no signs that it would end. He cited the explosion of Russian tourism after the visa requirement was cancelled, from 70,000 in 2008 to the current 500,000 per year. He also said the city shouldn’t ignore the 400,000 tourists per year who come on day trips from Jordan or Egypt, who almost exclusively visit Jerusalem. The average day tripper spends over NIS 1,000 in 12 hours, he said.
Meseznikov stressed the importance of financial support for tourism marketing, especially in Israel’s capital city.
“It’s easier and more economical for other government branches to explain their financial decisions – in the military, they can explain why they dropped 100 tons of explosives instead of five tons,” he said. “We need to explain the soul and the history and the culture of Israel. We need to explain to people who ask, ‘Is it safe to come to Israel?’ We need to explain to people why they should come back again and again and again. Every person who comes to visit becomes the best ambassador we can ask for.”
The Jerusalem Economic Forum unites professionals from the trade, high-tech, industry, hotel, and construction sectors with government officials to discuss economic issues in the city. Sunday’s event was the second time it was held. The first one focused on improving the city’s transportation infrastructure.