Israel Kicks Off Marketing Campaign

After a 31 percent drop in tourism during the war with Lebanon in July and August, the Israel Ministry of Tourism (IMOT) is launching a major marketing campaign to bring tourists back to the state. Prior to the conflict, the ministry had estimated that more than 2.7 million people would visit Israel in 2006. Now, tourism executives hope to at least reach the 2 million mark. Israel hopes its marketing campaign will lure visitors

Israel's Minister of Tourism Isaac Herzog is quite optimistic that tourism will bounce back, citing the new attitude of travelers since 9/11. In fact, during the first eight months of 2006, travel to Israel jumped 5 percent over the same period in 2005.

"The tourism industry has suffered a major setback," says Herzog. "We're trying to recover in crisis management mode."

The Israeli government has set up an emergency fund, allocating 40 million shekels (approximately $9.3 million) this year and 100 million shekels ($23.2 million) for 2007.

To reassure tourists that Israel is back in business, the IMOT is kicking off a TV ad campaign this week that will air in the New York metropolitan area, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia and San Francisco. The commercials use the tagline "It's happening now. Israel. Who knew?" highlighting the normalcy of the state.

The TV campaign targets the sophisticated traveler—one of three markets the ministry is focusing on. The IMOT is also reaching out to the American Jewish community during Jewish holidays, placing fliers in synagogues. A campaign is also being created for the evangelical Christian community with testimonials from major leaders.

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The dual-island nation expects to reopen its borders in October, although no date was given and it's uncertain whether Americans can visit.