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Sunday,  July 14, 2024 3:11 AM 

Israel Tourism Minister recaps difficult year while expressing hope for 2015

Israel Tourism Minister recaps difficult year while expressing hope for 2015

On Wednesday evening, 35 travel media, operators and honoured guests gathered at Toronto’s Park Hyatt for a special dinner to welcome Dr. Uzi Landau, Israel Minister of Tourism. Over a buffet, guests heard about Israel’s challenges in the last year and its hopes for the future.

“It is an honour for me to show the minister the power of the industry here in Toronto,” said Ami Allon, director, Israel Government Tourist Office Canada.

Allon acknowledged Israel has seen some real challenges this year. “Less than six months ago we celebrated the best six months we’ve ever had. We had a big event in Toronto. Half a year later, everything has changed. We all know the Israel tourism industry is suffering. We lost a lot of groups.”

But Allon expressed hope for the future: “Luckily I can say I think we’re back on track. I believe that next year will be very successful. Israel has everything you can want in a vacation.”

Allon next welcomed Landau to speak, who expressed his gratitude to the Canadian tourism industry: “Let me extend my sincere thanks for your support in promoting the business of travelling to Israel,” said Landau. “Our success in Israel is your success.”

Landau noted that Canada was an important tourism market for Israel, with 25% of its visitors hailing from Canada. “I do not know of another country where visitors will come from a distance of 12,000 km.”

Landau spoke about Israel’s long history of welcoming visitors of faith, noting that half of its tourists are visiting for pilgrimage or faith purposes, which can sometimes amount to 1 - 2 million visitors.

“But Israel is not just about faith,” said Landau. “Israel can be characterized by sophistication. You can go to museums and it has more art galleries per capita than anywhere in the world. We have cuisine that draws foodies from five different continents. We have very fine orchestras and rock festivals and operas.”

Landau acknowledged Israel’s hard times as well. “We are now in a pivotal moment in our history. We are moving, struggling, forward. Tourism dropped by an average of 35 per cent.”

However, Landau also echoed Allon’s hope for the year to come. “65 per cent still came. 65 per cent. That miracle speaks for itself.”

Landau also noted that Israel’s growth before this year showed real potential: “As much as 2013 was our best year ever, the start of 2014 was even better.”

Landau ended the evening on a note of gratitude for those who chose to come to Israel despite its situation this year, saying, “When I look at visits to Israel, it is a statement of our shared hopes.”

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