Sunday, July 26, 2009

Meseznikov, US Evangelicals push for tourism boom

Jul. 25, 2009
E.B. SOLOMONT, Jerusalem Post correspondent , THE JERUSALEM POST

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NEW YORK - Israel's Tourism Ministry is joining forces with a major American Evangelical movement to boost travel to the Jewish state.

The partnership, with United Christians for Israel, comes amid a major tourism push outlined by
Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov during a recent visit to the United States. The multi-year campaign, which targets both Jews and non-Jews, will include a $38 million marketing budget - more than twice last year's budget.

The US is Israel's "No. 1 source country for incoming tourism," Meseznikov said. "The segmented, focused and intensive marketing activities of the Tourism Ministry will lead to a slowing down of the decrease in tourism and a return to an increase in incoming tourism next year."

The push for visits to Israel by Evangelicals was made during CUFI's annual summit, held last week in Washington. Officials outlined a new task force to promote Christian tourism in Israel. Led by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Meseznikov and CUFI Chairman Pastor John Hagee, it will include an annual conference in Israel and conference calls with senior Israeli officials every three months.

Amid the national push for tourism, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said he wants to expand the capital's tourism industry fivefold within a decade. During a trip to New York on Thursday, Barkat told reporters he hopes to increase the number of tourists visiting Jerusalem each year to 10 million, up from around 2 million. He cited other international cities - such as New York and Rome - which host more than 40 million tourists annually.

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