The Ministry of Tourism has embarked on a campaign to further promote North American tourism to Israel, focusing on the religious and historical importance of the country. To that end, Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov is leaving Thursday for an extended official visit to the United States.
Misezhnikov explained that the government has increased his ministry's marketing budget "to an unprecedented half a billion shekels for the next two years." This support, he said, "allows an allocation of NIS 150 million to strengthen and promote tourism from North America, which has been affected by the global economic crisis."
Video: Recent Israel Ministry of Tourism commercial-30 second commercial
Minister Misezhnikov has decided that the North American campaign will be focused on "positioning Israel as the Holy Land with Jerusalem at its center," a Tourism Ministry statement said. The government will allocate NIS 70 million to this effort in 2009 and another NIS 80 million in 2010.
Tourism from North America will remain at the top of the ministry's priorities, according to Misezhnikov.
Accompanied by Tourism Ministry officials, Minister Misezhnikov is slated to meet with leaders of the Jewish and Evangelical Christian communities in New York, Washington and California. Among those on his agenda are John Hagee, founder of Christians United for Israel, and leaders of the Catholic community such as Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York. In his meeting with the archbishop, the Tourism Minister plans to discuss ways of leveraging the recent visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Israel.
"There is a large unfulfilled potential in evangelical tourism and the Tourism Ministry will work to expose the American public to the Israeli tourism product over the next few years, with an emphasis on Israel's religious, historical and archaeological elements," the minister explained.
The delegation will also meet with leaders of the Jewish community, including, among others, executive vice chairman Malcolm Hoenlein and other members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, as well as the president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, John Fishel.
To coordinate and focus Israel's new tourism campaign, Minister Misezhnikov will also be holding working meetings with the directors of Israel government tourist offices in North America and Canada.
Video: Israel Tourism Video-- 9 minutes
North America remains the largest source country of incoming tourism to Israel. In 2008, roughly 700,000 tourists visited from the USA (16 percent more than 2007). From January to May 2009, 235,000 tourists have visited from North America (10 percent less than the same period last year, which saw 291,000 visitors).