The Tourism Ministry expects 30 percent more tourists to enter Israel during Pessah compared with last year, as the government is encouraging more investments into the hotel industry to meet tourism demand. In a meeting on Wednesday with Prime Minister and acting Tourism Minister, Ehud Olmert, Tourism Ministry director-general, Shaul Tzemach, said that, 80,000 tourists were anticipated to enter Israel during Pessah, a growth of 30% in comparison to last year. Olmert instructed the Tourism Ministry, which has been operating without a minister for almost three months, to accelerate encouragements of capital investments in the local industry. Olmert added that the ministry should vigorously address the need for more hotel rooms in order to meet future demands. "During the past few months we have approved NIS 150 million grants for investments in the industry and another NIS 100m. grants will be approved soon," said Olmert. "The tourism industry is the most effective in instigating economic growth for the Israeli economy with a direct contribution of NIS 20 billion to the Gross Domestic Product in 2007 and a general contribution of NIS 40b. The tourism industry employs some 95,000 direct employees and 180,000 indirect workers who benefit from it. Olmert added that these investments would assist the government in implementing its plan to create employment opportunities in the peripheries. Hotel capacity is expected to reach 80% on average and even higher in Jerusalem and Eilat. Tzemach said preparations of the ministry for the Pessah period, which aim to ensure a safe stay to the tens of thousands of the vacationers in the region, were completed. Furthermore, during the Pessah period, new and renovated tourist sites will be open to the public, including the Clock Square in Jaffa, Timna Lake in the Arava, the ring path for cyclists near Hula Lake and the area's observation point. Meanwhile, another 1,000 pilgrims are anticipated to take part in the fifth annual Pilgrimage Marathon for Peace on April 18. The marathon will start at the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem via Rachel Passage and to the Sultan's Pool in Jerusalem to the foot of the Old City. The annual marathon in memory of Pope John Paul II will include the Italian athletes who will carry the torch that was blessed by Pope Benedict XVI in Rome, as well as Palestinian and Israeli athletes. A delegation of 1,000 pilgrims headed by the senior Cardinal Camillo Ruini of the Vatican will arrive in Israel in the next few days to take part in the marathon events. Finally, the Vatican's official travel agency, Romana Opera Pellegrinaggi, the travel agency Ovunque Viaggi and the Israeli Tourism Ministry initiated another half-marathon - the Arad-Massada half marathon. The half-marathon will take place on Wednesday April 16, at 7 a.m. and start at the hotels' square in Arad.