One of the world’s most important tourism conferences will be opening in Berlin on Wednesday, but neither of Israel’s top tourism officials will be in attendance.
Instead of attending ITB Berlin, Tourism Minister Uzi Landau will remain in the United States, where he is attending the National Religious Broadcasters’ International Christian Media convention, the largest gathering of its kind anywhere. And the ministry’s director general, Amir Halevy, left Monday for a business trip to Brazil to interview candidates to replace the current tourism emissary in that country, who is wrapping up her time in the job at the end of May.
“That’s how we express confidence in tourism in Israel?” asked one senior tourism industry executive regarding Landau and Halevy’s absence in Berlin. “Let’s assume that the minister and the director general can’t attend, despite the fact that I don’t recall that ever happening, then where is the deputy director general for marketing? He has gone every year. It’s scandalous.”
The Tourism Ministry’s deputy director general for marketing, Oren Drori, will not be at the event. Nor will Pini Shani, his deputy.
Israel will, however, be represented by Uri Sharon, who heads the Israel Government Tourist Office in the German capital. And about 200 other Israelis will be representing the tourism sector, including travel wholesalers, airlines and tour organizers.
About 180,000 professionals from around the world are slated to attend this year’s ITB fair in Berlin, where there will be more than 10,000 displays from 180 countries.
In explaining his absence from Berlin, Halevy said he attended the fair last year and it generated a lot of contacts but this year it was decided that Sharon, the local director of the Israel Government Tourist Office, would represent the ministry. Sharon, he said, is an excellent manager and the attendance of higher-level Israeli officials was not justified. In addition, in an apparent reference to the Open Skies aviation liberalization agreement between Israel and the European Union, Halevy said air ties are not a problem that he would need to address.
The ministry added that every trip is evaluated on its own merits and that Israel has a large pavilion at the Berlin fair.
“Senior Tourism Ministry officials meet with tourism representatives from Europe and Germany in particular throughout the year, and not necessarily at this fair,” the ministry said in a statement. The ministry added that just this week new air service to Israel from two destinations in Germany, Hamburg and Baden-Baden, is being inaugurated.
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