Birthright Students to Revive Winter Tourism

Some 11,000 Jewish students from 25 states, mostly from North America, are expected to arrive this winter as part of Taglit - birthright israel, the organization's director general, Dr. Shimshon Shoshani, told Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog yesterday.

The Tourism Ministry reported that contrary to fears harbored in the tourism industry, numerous Jewish students have registered to visit Israel and many more are on the waiting list.

Last year birthright israel, an organization dedicated to helping Jews who have never been to Israel to come on an organized trip of travel, brought some 10,300 students to the country.

This year, the program will generate some 100,000 overnight hotel stays nationwide, 25,000 of them in Jerusalem alone, and an estimated NIS 27.7 million in revenues.

"The expected arrival of thousands of students to Israel in the winter is encouraging," Herzog said. "Grand Circle, a company that markets Israel in 80 countries throughout the world, told me that by the end of 2006, it expects to bring hundreds of tourists for package tours of seven to 14 nights to Israel. This is a considerable recovery in tourism compared to September-October 2006. According to Grand Circle, there are reservations for some 4,200 hotel stays throughout the country," he said.

Herzog said his ministry was employing focused marketing methods in selected destinations to increase incoming tourism to Israel in the winter. "I see birthright israel as an important project both for strengthening the Jewish people's affiliation to Israel and as a tourism promotion organization," he said.

"Despite the gloomy predictions after the war, the birthright israel project has proved itself in difficult periods like during the intifada and is again spearheading tourism to Israel after the war," Shoshani said.

The students are expected to arrive in several rounds of 10 days each. During their educational tours, they will learn about Israel, Judaism, ways to keep in touch and strengthen the support for Israel in campuses around the world.

In the beginning of January, thousands of birthright israel participants will attend three central events in Binyanei Hauma Convention Center in Jerusalem, together with dozens of Jewish contributors, ministers and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Since its foundation some six years ago, birthright israel has brought more than 110,000 students from 50 states to Israel. The organization's programs have generated more than $200 million income for the tourism industry and helped change the attitude of many Jewish youngsters who avoided visiting Israel before.