Children from south of Israel
Children from south of IsraelIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov and top ministry officials met last Thursday with industry leaders to plan tourism rehabilitation and a return to normal for the southern region. The minister emphasized the importance of renewed tourism and return of income to southern business owners "a national mission," as well as a "part of the victory" in Israel's eight-day Pillar of Defense counter terror offensive against Gaza's terrorist infrastructure.

Along with ministry director-general Noaz Bar Nir and other senior ministry representatives, area tourism industry leaders began planning an initiative of the Federation of Israeli Tourist Organizations, chaired by Michael Federmann.

Local industry leaders reported cancellation rates of 10-20 percent on average and a slowdown of future reservations.

Damage has also been seen in Tel Aviv as well as Jerusalem, they reported, and in other regions across the country.

Industry representatives stressed the urgency in implementing rehabilitative actions as soon as possible because in the tourism industry, it is impossible to retrieve much of what was lost. Rather, it is essential to show life returning to normal in order to return the flow of incoming tourism to the country, they emphasized.

The Federation of Israeli Tourist Organizations vowed to contact those groups that canceled reservations in hopes of persuading them to reverse their decisions.

Damage from cancellations of airline reservations on flights to Israel, however, appeared to be short-term only; industry leaders reported there were few long-term cancellations.

No scheduled airline had canceled incoming flights, and only a few charter flights had canceled their tickets.

The Tour Guides Associations recommended sending tour guide representatives, with the assistance of the Incoming Tour Operators' Association, to meet with overseas groups who plan to visit Israel within the next few months.

The ministry plans to ratchet up marketing efforts in the next three months, both in direct marketing to tourists as well as within the countries from which they originate. Campaigns are being planned for the U.S., Russia and various European nations, as well as towards the domestic market.

Misezhnikov added that he has requested additional funds from the Finance Ministry to offer a 'safety net' for the next four weeks to charter operators flying into Eilat. The initiative would help avoid cancellations and the potentially irreversible damage that could be caused to the winter season, he said.

The minister underscored that the request had been submitted to the Finance Ministry after the budget had already effectively been closed.

A request was also sent to the Foreign Ministry for efforts to be made in the diplomatic arena, to remove travel warnings, and to increase the hosting of decision makers from overseas, to underline life is returning to normal.