Northern hotels hope for quick comeback

The Tourism Ministry is in the planning stages of a marketing campaign in the electronic and print media to encouraging locals to visit the North.

tour north 88 298 (photo credit: Avi Krawitz)
tour north 88 298
(photo credit: Avi Krawitz)
With relative quiet following the cease-fire agreement, hotels in the North are hoping the initial stream of inquiries they've received from local tourists since the hostilities ended will turn into real reservations. "Today alone, we received about 30 calls and got one booking out of them. I have a few nice reservations still from before but I don't know if they will be realized by next weekend," said Benny Konwitz, owner of Arbel Holiday Homes near Tiberias. All the hotels in the North are open and ready to welcome guests except one, the Hacienda Hotel near Ma'alot, which was directly hit by a Katyusha rocket and will take a few months to repair, said Tova Pinto, director general of the Israel Hotels Association. "At all the others, everything is in place and, even now, we are hosting people in hotels around the Kinneret and in Tiberias," Pinto said. Nevertheless, she did not expect an initial mass movement to the North. "Since the cease-fire, the hotels are getting a lot of inquiries from people, but very few reservations," she said. Konwitz believes the real recovery may depend on how much publicity help the industry gets from the government. "The big question is whether the government will make good on its intentions to embark on a serious marketing campaign on TV and in the newspapers, which will wake people up to what the North has to offer now." The Tourism Ministry is in the planning stages of a marketing campaign in the electronic and print media to encouraging locals to visit the North. A ministry spokesperson said the first phase of the campaign would focus on the Israeli market before tackling the international market. The ministry wouldn't disclose the nature of the campaign, how much it will cost or when it will start. Hotelier Konwitz noted that many people were unsure if areas around the Galilee were physically damaged and in need of repairs and, therefore, needed reassurance that most attractions around the Kinneret were open and ready for business. Many potential visitors are looking for good deals from the hotels, which are desperately seeking business after a month of complete quiet. Many hotels and guest houses are obliging. "We are offering the third night free on weekends for the rest of August," said Josh Avin, manager of boutique hotel Bayit Bagalil. "Some people, however, are calling because they want to show their support and I'm sure that there will be many people who, instead of going abroad and other places, will come and support the North." Avin added that he even got a call from German tourists who have a booking for next week and were checking to see if the hotel was open. Such a call may offer some comfort to the IHA's Pinto, who expressed concern that the negative trend of foreign tourist arrivals, caused by the war would continue through the rest of the year. So, even though foreign tourists take a back seat for now in the government campaign, Pinto reiterated the need to focus on that market, as well. "Unless the government takes serious steps, we will reach a crisis, meaning that we believe that tourism will collapse and instead of our forecast of 2.4 million arrivals we will face a reality of 1.6 million or even less and in turn diminish our income and gross national profit," she said. "We calculated that if the government will invest $25 million to $30m. [in a campaign], it will save a few billion dollars in the coming years. This would be a very valuable investment."