Mayor: We won't let the forces of evil disrupt our lives.
By RON FRIEDMAN
While it might be expected that rockets exploding in a major tourism city during peak season would be a cause for concern or even panic for those whose livelihoods depend on drawing in visitors, Eilat’s tourism professionals, it appears, are made of tougher stuff.In interviews with The Jerusalem Post mere hours after a rocket fell on the southern city on Monday morning, industry leaders signaled business as usual.“There is no cause for panic and no need to stir a commotion that might topple the tourism industry. Eilat is registering high demands from both local and foreign tourists. At this stage what we need is to resolve the security issue using the normal measures at our disposal while cooperating fully with the Egyptian and Jordanian authorities,” said Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov.“Many tourism-based countries confront similar difficulties and do not suffer as a result.”Meseznikov’s office said that the minister and his staff were in contact with hotel and tourism professionals in Eilat and so far there had been no cancellations or unexpected departures.The ministry has also instructed Israeli tourism representatives in other countries to convey a message of calm and control to put potential tourists at ease and avoid any long-term damage that could result.Shabtai Shai, director general of the Eilat Hotels Association, said that in the short term he thought the missile landing would have no effect, but that hoteliers would have to work hard to make sure that the upcoming fall and winter seasons didn’t fall flat.“At the moment Eilat is full of Israelis and, as we all know, it takes more than a couple of missiles to scare them away. The real question is what will happen with the foreign tourists that are now planning their winter vacations and may think twice before deciding to come to Eilat,” said Shai.“Assuming that the firing was a single and isolated incident, what I anticipate is that we will see some cancellations here and there, but not a wide-scale movement or trend. Judging by past experience, we won’t be facing a major problem. Of course if more missiles fall here, the effect could be devastating.”Shai said that in the past, Eilat was always considered a safe place, immune from the terrorist attacks experienced by other Israeli cities. Now it was difficult to say what the future would bring.“In any case, for us in the tourism industry, it means we will have to work extra hard to promote Eilat abroad,” said Shai.“While it’s too early to say, what measures the industry will take, it is certain that we will have to convince people that it is worth it to come here.”Ami Etgar, director-general of the Incoming Tour Operators Association, said that he didn’t think the missile explosion would have any effect on incoming tourists.“Terrorism attacks on tourism destinations are not new. Other places around the world have experienced terrorism and continued to flourish. This is not a game changer,” said Etgar.Eilat Mayor Meir Yitzhak Halevi also signaled that things in the city were carrying on as normal.“Life continues on track. We will not allow the forces of evil to disrupt our lives,” he said.The mayor’s spokeswoman said that the atmosphere in the city was positive.“The beaches are packed. The hotels are fully booked. Flights are arriving on their normal schedule. Everything is as it should be,” she said. “Just to show you how at ease the residents are, I can report that out municipal hotline received five complaints today about unrelated issues. Residents who are nervous or concerned do not make those sorts of calls.”
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