Meseznikov wants Treasury to okay grants for tourist sites

Tourism Ministry doesn’t need more funds, just green light.

Stas Meseznikov 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Stas Meseznikov 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov wants more freedom to use his ministry’s budget, complaining in a letter to Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz on Sunday that the Treasury’s Budget Department was stymieing efforts to build more tourist attractions.
“In recent years due to objections from the Budget Department, the Tourism Ministry has been forced to cease providing grants for tourist attractions, even though developers have expressed interest in risking their money,” Meseznikov wrote. “The Budget Department’s objections are not due to requests for additional funds, which were not requested; rather they are caused by a narrow view of what the nature of the Israeli tourism product is.
“This position harms the tremendous efforts that the Tourism Ministry is making to bring tourists to Israel and extend their stays, and the benefit these visits provide for the country and the economy.”
Meseznikov noted in his letter that Israel has an abundance of government-funded tourist sites that include historical, cultural and religious sites, nature reserves and heritage sites, all developed and maintained by government bodies.
“Alongside them, there are tourist attractions that are the product of free-market initiatives. In the past these initiatives received grants or tax relief as part of the Capital Investment Encouragement Law. It is important to note that in these types of projects the state’s investment of roughly 10 percent of the investment cost is small compared to the huge advantage of upgrading Israel’s tourism product,” said Meseznikov, citing such attractions as Mini Israel, the Eilat Underwater Observatory, the dolphin reef and the Hamat Gader spa and park.
“Needless to say, these attractions pose a high financial risk to their developers, who need to construct, market and maintain them. At the same time, these attractions benefit the Israeli economy by bringing in foreign currency, creating jobs and developing the periphery, and help the tourism sector by keeping visitors here for longer, improving and diversifying the tourism product and creating new market niches,” wrote Meseznikov.
“The competition with neighboring countries for the hearts of tourists has been growing in recent years and to keep up, we must encourage developers to build new attractions. Many developers have approached the ministry in the last year requesting grants to aid in building new attractions and unfortunately, we had to deny their requests. Your intervention is necessary,” concluded Meseznikov.
Meseznikov’s spokesman, Amnon Lieberman, told The Jerusalem Post that the Tourism Ministry needed no extra funding to follow through on grant requests, and that all they were after was the budget department’s green light.
Steinitz’s office did not respond by press time.