Tourism Minister plans bigger focus on Eilat

Herzog's first public appearance as minister was in the Red Sea resort town.

isaac herzog smile 29888 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
isaac herzog smile 29888
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Isaac Herzog, the new Minister for Tourism, intends to put much more focus on Eilat than did any of his predecessors, and made a statement to that effect by making his first public appearance in the post in the Red Sea resort town. It was not by chance, he said on Wednesday night, that he had accepted the invitation of the Nakash family to attend the celebration of the new, opulent Shangri-La wing of their Orchid Hotel and Resort complex. He plans to pay a lot of attention to Eilat, he told The Jerusalem Post, and he decided that his first public function as Tourism Minister would be at an event that illustrates a commitment to investment in tourism in Eilat. "Tourism is growing, and I'll do everything in my power to help it flourish," he said. Herzog commended the Nakash family as well as other entrepreneurs who invest in Eilat. A lawyer by profession, who is a partner in one of the largest law firms in Israel, Herzog is scheduled to be back in Eilat next week for a law conference, but he will also take the opportunity, he said, to meet some of the movers and shakers of Eilat's tourism industry and to familiarize himself with their needs and their problems. With regard to the event for which he'd flown south, Herzog said the Nakash family has built "one of the pearls of tourism in Eilat." Speaking later from the podium, he urged the Eilat municipality, and the Eilat Hotels Association to work together with the government to make Eilat a desired destination. "The Government should not interfere," he said, "but it must help by creating conditions and incentives that enable the tourist industry to advance." He also noted the importance of good and happy workers. Eilat mayor, Meir Yitzhak Halevy, observed that the Nakash family, which has long been associated with Eilat, has realized yet another dream that will contribute to the city's status as "a national strategic asset for Israel." Halevy then addressed himself to Herzog and said: "We were delighted that you were the one selected for this ministry. We know you as a person of integrity who, when he promises to do something, makes every effort to keep that promise." Several members of the tourist industry nodded in assent, though some remarked later that if Herzog's predecessor, Avraham Hirchson had been given more time to implement his ideas, he would have gone down in history as an excellent minister of tourism. They were optimistic that with Hirchson as Finance Minister and Herzog as Tourism Minister, the government's attitude to the industry in general and Eilat in particular, would receive fresh impetus. Travel agents and journalists from all over the country were flown to Eilat on Wednesday via Arkia in which the Nakash family has controlling interest. Earlier in the week, it was announced that Arkia is planning to purchase two new Boeing 787 Dreamliner air carriers to add to its fleet, despite the fact that Arkia has not received permission to run scheduled flights to and from New York. Brothers Joe and Avi Nakash were confident, however, that situation would change in the not-too-distant future. "If they see that we're serious and that we'll buy planes that are suitable for the US and that we'll do everything that has to be done professionally, I think we might get the route to New York," Joe Nakash told the Post. His younger brother Avi, who is actually in charge of the aviation side of the family's diverse business interests said with cautious optimism that they were waiting for authorization to fly the New York route. When Meir Sheetrit was Transportation Minister, he said, he had told company representatives to wait until after the elections, and had intimated that in all likelihood permission would be granted. The long-term plan is to buy the 787, said Nakash. Until that happens, Arkia will lease planes for long haul travel to New York and Bangkok. When Meir Sheetrit was Transportation Minister, he said, he had told company representatives to wait until after the elections, and had intimated that in all likelihood permission would be granted. The increase in oil prices, which is having a radical impact on the cost of flight tickets, will, to some extent, be absorbed by Arkia, said Nakash. Whereas other companies are raising their prices by 10 percent, Arkia's prices are increasing by only 5%. The Nakash family has been investing in Israel for the past 25 years in various spheres starting with hotels, then tomato processing, real estate and olive oil. "We're always looking for different opportunities," said Nakash. The new Shangri-La wing, which is part of a back to nature trend in luxury, was designed by architects Yehuda and Yoel Feigin. Yehuda Feigin has designed 39 hotels in Israel, mostly in Tiberias, the Dead Sea and Eilat. "He's the best there is," said Joe Nakash.