Ministry plans to invest millions in attracting tourists to J'lem

Ministry plans to invest

The Tourism Ministry announced new plans last week to invest NIS 15 million in the development of tourism infrastructure and events in Jerusalem throughout 2010, as part of a new program to establish Israel as "the Holy Land, with Jerusalem at its center." In recent years, the ministry has invested tens of millions of shekels in the development and repair of a number of tourist sites in the capital, among them the city center, the historic Ein Kerem neighborhood and the Old City. However, the new program - and the NIS 15m. accompanying it - will go toward increasing the size and scope of similar tourism initiatives, along with infrastructure work that will allow for longer operating hours and larger crowd capacity at a number of sites in the capital, in an effort to maximize the number of tourists at each site. Additionally, the ministry plans to encourage both domestic and local tourism to Jerusalem by raising awareness of events taking place in the city. As a part of that commitment, the Tourism Ministry has added NIS 350,000 to the budget set out for the annual "Hamshush'alayim" event series - a play on the Hebrew words for "long weekend" and "Jerusalem" - that began in the capital this past weekend. The series, which is Jerusalem's main cultural city-wide event and will continue over three consecutive weekends, includes a wide array of musical performances and cultural activities. Visitors to Jerusalem also enjoy free or discounted entry to dozens of local attractions. The Jerusalem Municipality, together with a number of area hotels, is supporting the event, and the additional funding from the Tourism Ministry has been earmarked for marketing it. "Jerusalem is Israeli tourism's central brand-name product and is the central focus for the majority of tourists who come to Israel," Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov said in a statement detailing the new plans. "In order to fulfill our goal of increasing the number of tourists that visit Jerusalem by an additional one million within the next three years, we will invest in this important brand-name product and make it attractive to new groups and communities from around the world and within Israel," he said. Additional events that have been planned to cater to a wider audience include special tours throughout the city, theater, music and art festivals, and a culinary festival that will include discounts at some of the city's best restaurants. Activities for children are also planned, as are nighttime activities for college students. According to numbers released by the ministry, Jerusalem is the most commonly visited location for tourists coming to Israel. In 2008, 74 percent of all tourists who came to Israel visited Jerusalem, and 54% of them stayed in the capital at least one night. The average tourist's stay in Jerusalem during 2008 was six nights, and the most-visited sites within the city were the Western Wall, the Old City's Jewish Quarter, the Mount of Olives, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Via Dolorosa, the Tower of David and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.