'Israel Is a Tourist Destination, Not a War Zone'

Various marketing efforts deserve quite a bit of credit for the rise in the numbers of tourists. Today there is a joint forum comprising the Tourism Ministry, Hotel Association and the Israel Incoming Tour Operators Association that allows the various bodies to cooperate and focus their efforts, making the marketing that more effective.

The ministry invested about NIS 150 million in 2007 in marketing efforts around the world, with the biggest campaign in North America. Other large campaigns were held in Germany, Britain and Russia.

The Hotels Association estimates that the hotels invested another NIS 200 million last year in sales and marketing promotions; while incoming tourism operators, travel agents and agencies which sell packages for tourists, invested another NIS 40 million in overseas marketing.

A number of municipalities also increased their marketing efforts around the world. The Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality, for example, put up NIS 2 million from its budget for a campaign with the ministry and its non-profit bodies for England, Germany and the U.S.

Airlines also showed a marked change. "For the first time in many years Israel joined the list of recommended vacation destinations marketed by British Airways," said Yael Katan, the CEO of British Airways Israel. "This is due to a change in the way of thinking in the company's management, which in practice no longer relates to Israel as a war zone, but as a recommended tourist destination," she explained.

In 2008, the Tourism Ministry's marketing budget will increase to NIS 200 million for the year.

Many in the tourism industry have expressed their appreciation for outgoing Tourism Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, who managed to have these sums become part of the ministry's regular annual budget. This means that in case of future budget cuts, the marketing funds will be spared.