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Israeli Tourism in Tatters

by Eliana Schneider
Totally Jewish
September 27, 2002


2000 had promised to be Israel’s biggest tourism year ever. A record 2.7million visitors entered the holy land and new hotels and infrastructure were popping up everywhere.

Israelis had jobs at shops and hotels, and business was booming, with the country’s ministry of tourism standing to generate $4.5bn if all went according to plan.

But that dream was shattered with the first blows of the intifada.

This year, barely a million tourists have visited the country. More than 20,000 jobs have been lost, 6,000 hotel rooms standing vacant, and in their place is a $3bn tourism deficit.

It could now take years for Israel’s economy to get back on track, since tourism makes up almost 10 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product.

The ministry of tourism has had to implement several new strategies over the past two years in order to keep a float. It has shifted its marketing focus to four countries: the United States, Great Britain, France and the Former Soviet Union.

Oren Drori, director of Israel’s ministry of tourism in the UK, told LJN: “Right now we are focusing on the Jewish market and on the emotional ties and solidarity with Israel.

“We find those people who are familiar with the country are the ones continuing to visit, since they have less fear than people who are not as aware of the situation.”

But the government is still trying to lure tourists to the “sunny” spots like Eilat and the Dead Sea. And if there is one saving grace in Israel’s desperate situation, it is that domestic travellers are making up for the large hole in the market.

Drori said: “We have to keep our hopes up and remain optimistic that the situation will improve. But we are looking at a very long winter.”