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Haifa could become an attractive tourist destination if it would develop the city's tourism industry and market itself overseas, according to the results of a comprehensive study conducted for the municipality by consulting firm Ernst & Young.

The report was presented at a conference yesterday in Haifa.

Among the recommendations: construction of more hotels; establishing a ferry line between Haifa, Acre and Caesarea; development of the western anchorage in the port as a central recreation and entertainment area; turning the existing small airport into an international airport; and becoming a major port for cruise ships.

The port will become part of a much larger tourist complex starting at the sea and continuing through the German Colony, the Bahai Gardens and extending all the way up to the top of Mount Carmel.

The mayor of Haifa, Yona Yahav, set up a special team under his leadership to implement the recommendations.

According to Yahav, tourism is one of the main creators of economic growth in the city.

"Haifa, as the metropolis of the North, will double the number of hotel rooms in the city and compete for new target communities that it never competed for before," said Yahav.

The municipality ordered the report in the wake of a larger study conducted by Ernst & Young for the Tourism Ministry. The study concentrated on two areas: the tourism infrastructure in Haifa, and its international marketing.

The purpose is to express Haifa's natural advantages: its topography that includes both mountain and sea and its location near the numerous historical, archaeological and religious sites in the North.

The report recommends eight countries as having potential for providing tourists: Russia, China, France, Germany, Italy, Britain, Sweden and the U.S.

The city has already started implementing a number of the recommendations.

Yahav added that his team, along with the city's management and political leaders, would help entrepreneurs to invest in tourism in the city and help cut red tape for them.

In addition, the study said that while business tourism had shown the strongest and most rapid growth over the last decade, vacation and recreational tourism has the greatest potential for future tourism growth.