Tourism Up Only 1% in Jan.-Sept.

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Incoming tourism was down by 37 percent in September over the same period last year, according to a press release issued yesterday by the Ministry of Tourism and based on figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics. About 1.43 million tourists entered the country in the January-September period, only 1 percent more than during the equivalent period in 2005.

Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog said the main reason for the sharp drop was the war in Lebanon. He said his ministry is working with the tourism industry to market Israel in selected locations around the world and expects to see a significant rise in incoming tourism during the winter months.

September was a difficult month for local hoteliers, with hotel nights down by 53 percent compared to September 2005, according to figures released yesterday by the Israel Hotel Association. A total of 225,000 hotel nights were recorded last month, down from 475,000 in September of the previous year.

Among the hardest-hit locations were Tiberias, with a drop of 70 percent, and kibbutz accommodations, with a 53-percent drop, but even cities far from the war zone suffered, with Tel Aviv and Herzliya recording 42 percent fewer room nights and Eilat's numbers off by 47 percent on the month.

According to a report prepared by the association's economics department, the figures point to a disproportionately high drop in group tours.

Tour guides will not be able to claim compensation from the state for lost income due to the fighting in Lebanon last summer, as part of the restitution package offered to the tourism industry, according to a letter sent by Tourism Ministry Director General Nahum Itzkovich to Alex Tanzer, chair of the Pensioner Party's immigrants forum.

Instead, tour guides will be eligible for compensation offered to other self-employed individuals. (Z.B.)



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