International Tourism Conference – Jerusalem – Part 1

Israeli Prime Mininister Binyamin Netanyahu addressing the International Tourism Conference - Jerusalem 2011

PM Netanyahu: We need more tourists than people who live here.

This week I am attending the first International Tourism Conference being held in Jerusalem’s Binyanei HaUmah Convention Center. Focusing both on the changing opportunities and challenges in the global tourism industry, as well as on the unique attractions of Israel (and Jerusalem in particular) as a tourist destination, the conference has drawn hundreds of participants from around the world.

With panels on topics such as “The Role of Media in Generating Tourism,” “The Impact of Technology on the Tourism Industry,” and “Branding Cities,” the conference features politicians such as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Minister of Tourism Stas Misezhnikov and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat alongside media personality Chris Matthews (“Hardball with Chris Matthews”), MTV International founder Bill Roedy and museum directors from around the world.

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Israel Tourism News Roundup

Israel Ministry of Tourism logo. Tour guide. Eshkol. grapes.

Logo of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism

I’m going to try to start doing regular posts where I summarize recent news stories with relevance to the tourism industry in Israel. These might have to do with plans the Tourism Ministry is making, events or news about hotels or airlines, or anything that might affect the tour guiding business directly. If any of you come across relevant news stories that you think I might not have seen, please feel free to forward my way! Thanks! And as always, I’d love to hear any responses or opinions in the comments section.

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Stas v. Turkey: Why All the Uproar?

Israel Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov (Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons, courtesy of Michael Feigin)

The news story that has most recently gotten all of the anti-Israel complainants in an uproar is this one, quoting Israel’s Minister of Tourism Stas Misezhnikov as calling for a boycott on Israeli tourism to Turkey. This came in response to Israeli news reports that said Turkey had classified Israel as a threat to regional security (though apparently various reports used different terminology for the same apparent move by Turkey). The web has plenty of blog posts and I’ve seen tons of tweets in my Twitter feed that have made this seem like a horrible thing for Misezhnikov to have said.

My question: why all the uproar?

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When a Handshake Isn’t Just a Handshake

Handshake photo taken from Wikimedia Commons. (In public domain.)

I don’t know about you, but I shake hands with people all the time, and I barely even think about it. Sure, I’ve heard the potential origins of the handshake as a sign of peace, indicating that neither person is holding a weapon. But in our society, shaking hands is as common as, well… a handshake. Most of us clasp hands with others multiple times on a daily basis.

But last week, a handshake that may or may not have taken place highlighted just how delicate and sensitive life can be in the Middle East. And a few days later, I received a comment on a blog post that I’d written entirely innocently, that drove this point home on a more personal level.

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By the Numbers

"Light around the Bend" - Roman amphitheater at Beit Guvrin

There’s been plenty of coverage, of late, about the latest Israeli tourism numbers in 2009. And anytime there is a drop in the number of tourists from the previous year, it will be at least somewhat worrisome to people who make their living (or hope to down the road) within the industry.

At the same time, however, there seems to be a lot of good and/or hopeful news in the figures as well. That, and the fact that I am still two years away from fully depending on this industry for my income, give me reason to remain my typically optimistic self.

So let’s examine some of the numbers, as well as a number of trends and changes in the Israeli tourism industry.

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Israel Tourism for the Sportsman (or Sportswoman)

(Taken and modified from the Tour d'Israel website)

Israel’s tourism industry traditionally revolves around a lot of things: archaeology, history, religion, etc. Straightforward resort tourism (beaches, etc.), outdoor/hiking trips and luxury spa vacations have also been mainstays of the industry for quite some time.

More recently, there has been growth in areas such as culinary and/or wine tourism. Adventure travel (taking the outdoorsy to the next level) has also seen a bit of advancement.

But how about straightforward sports tourism? Well, a few recent ventures indicates this may be part of the future mosaic of the Israeli tourism business.

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Hopefully a Good Sign

Wild thistle in Ein Hod

Wild thistle in Ein Hod

Though the start of my course was delayed a few weeks, we are supposed to have our first orientation/classes this Friday, December 11. One of the things people always bring up is how this can be a difficult profession, due to its operating largely at the whims of the tourism industry. And that industry naturally has its ups and downs.

Still, I try to remain hopeful, and look out for positive signs.
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