Yariv Levin
Yariv LevinEsti Daziovov, TPS

Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin (Likud) was interviewed on the impact of the current crisis on the tourism sector and what his ministry is doing to address it.

“The main task of the Tourism Ministry is to advance the tourism sector, and right now, it is clear that the tourist industry across the world has suffered a severe blow. We are working on two fronts right now. The first – to provide assistance to tourists still here, representing their interests in negotiations with the Ministry of Finance and other government ministries, and updating them on any benefits they are entitled to receive. The second involves keeping in constant contact with service providers such as airlines and travel agents, trying to keep them on their feet during these difficult times. We hope that doing so will enable them to recover as soon as possible after the crisis ends.”

According to Minister Levin, the depth of the current economic crisis being felt in almost every single sector is proof of an argument he has been making – usually unsuccessfully – for many years, namely, that the tourism sector is vital for the stability and vitality of the entire Israeli economy.

“I have never found it easy to convince people that a thriving tourism industry is of vital importance to the entire economy,” he says. “This is an industry that employs a huge number of people bringing in massive revenues with a knock-on effect for many other sectors. Many people saw tourism as of negligible importance; unfortunately, it has taken an event like the current crisis to show how important tourism is now that the sector has basically shut down. The entire economy is feeling the effect. Huge numbers of people have been laid off; many businesses have ceased operating.”

“There is no doubt that our main challenge is to plan ways to recover from this as fast as possible once things get back on track. We are doing our best to provide solutions or at least assistance to businesses in the tourism sector as well as employees, and this is no simple matter, given the scope of the crisis and of course the fact that no one knows how long it will last. Currently, the government hopes to allocate the sum of NIS 5 billion to industries that will be key engines of economic growth after the crisis has passed, and I am doing my best to obtain the maximum possible for the businesses and workers in my sector.”

On the question whether the Finance Ministry is sympathetic to his concerns, Levin is cautiously optimistic, noting that it is too early to know how things will develop. “People’s expectations should be realistic, because this is an unprecedented economic crisis that affects the entire economy and no one knows when we will turn the corner. Obviously there are limited funds to hand out and the demands of many sectors are great, but we will do whatever we can to support the economy and enable it to get back on its feet once the crisis is over.”