A conference of opportunity

The OECD’s choice of Israel to host this event is a vote of confidence in our strength as a global economic force.

Tourists at Kotel 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Tourists at Kotel 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
How can thousands of jobs be created in the tourism sector to help overcome the challenges imposed by the global economic crisis? How do early signs of climate change impact on international tourist trends and opportunities? How do global security challenges on land, sea and air affect the free flow of tourists across open borders? All these questions and more will be at the center of discussion for this week’s historic conference of the Tourism Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Earlier this year, we witnessed our historic entry into this prestigious body of international leaders.
With our name added to the list of nation-states represented in the OECD, membership serves as an all-important recognition of the leading stance we have come to play in regional and global economic development.
The choice of Israel as the site for this important conference should be a source of pride for the country’s residents and indeed all Israelis and friends of Israel around the globe. As the home to some of the world’s most revered tourist sites and a place where history and modernity combine as in few other locales, we know our country is truly unique – and we take great satisfaction in being able to share this special status with our fellow members of the OECD.
By exposing this remarkable land to leaders of the travel industry, tourism executives and delegates from around the world, we are confident that this week’s events will enable us to share our national pride in our country, which is well suited to become a global leader in tourism.
While this is certainly an ambitious goal, it is one we firmly believe to be in the realm of possibility within the foreseeable future. In the first 10 months of 2010 alone, we have recorded over 2.5 million foreign tourists, a very impressive 27 percent increase over the year prior; and these numbers are consistently on the rise.
Through a combination of governmental and private investment in a variety of travel-related initiatives all over the country, we are steadily developing the necessary infrastructure to even more significantly increase the number of tourists we welcome each year.
WE FURTHER know that the OECD’s choice of Israel to host this conference acts as a vote of confidence in our strength as a global economic force and a nation with a great deal to contribute to our partner OECD nations.
Yet, beyond the obvious historic nature of this conference for the government and people of Israel, it is at its heart a working conference dedicated to new trends in the tourist industry. We are confident that here too we have a great deal to offer.
Throughout our modern existence, Israel has proven that tourism is a key means of encouraging dialogue with other nations, generating domestic growth and highlighting our nation’s remarkable history. With our entry into the OECD, we are that much better positioned to share those experiences and lessons with our partner nations.
We further appreciate that the modern world presents the travel industry with a unique set of challenges to ensure that we are an environmentally responsible industry. As a member of the OECD, we believe that this is a commitment that we will now be that much better positioned to uphold.
As an industry that sees the transporting of hundreds of millions of people around the globe each year, principally by air travel, we know that tourism ministries must play a part in designing innovative and lasting solutions to address humanity’s impact on climate change. We are very proud that local researchers and companies are playing a role in designing specific innovations in this all important realm, as will be highlighted in the conference.
While the people of Israel are able to take great satisfaction and national pride in our accomplishments in the fields of hi-tech, academia, biotechnology and numerous other areas where we are leaders, we know all too well that the world rarely associates us with these aspects of our existence.
As an OECD member, I firmly believe that we must therefore embrace this chance to highlight these positives. And in so doing we will enable our friends, and even our adversaries, to better appreciate the value that is represented by the Jewish state and allow us to make a lasting impact on the global tourism industry.
The writer is minister of tourism. The Ministry of Tourism is the official host of the OECD Tourism Committee’s 86th meeting being held in Jerusalem from October 20-22.