The Charedi community and LGBT travellers are being targeted by Israel’s tourism campaigns for 2017, according to the country’s Minister of Tourism.
Speaking at the World Travel Market trade show in London, Yariv Levin said Israel was looking to build on this year’s 10 per cent increase in visitors, helped by the opening of the new Eilat Timna Airport next year and two new flight routes from Monarch airlines which are due to start in December.
UK visitor numbers alone are up seven per cent, thanks to a series of campaigns this year, including ‘Two Cities. One Break’ focusing on combining Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and a series of billboards aimed at the LGBT community featuring the slogan ‘Imagine London without the gays…’ in advance of Tel Aviv’s Gay Pride event.
“We have a big challenge,” said Mr Levin. “Up until a year ago, the emphasis of Israeli marketing was usually focused on two sectors – one was pilgrimages and one was attracting the Jewish communities from around the world to Israel. The problem was the overall potential was very restricted.”
With a tourism budget that was doubled last year, marketing is now aimed at a wider British audience including city breaks and sun and sea holidays, as well as introducing visitors to the country’s desert activities and options for multi-centre breaks.
“We have to continue promoting tourism to Jewish communities everywhere,” said Mr Levin. “Working with those people who are coming even in bad times is something that is very important to us, so we will continue working with Jewish travel agents, with the Jewish communities.
“But also we are trying to each certain communities that up until now, we didn’t really welcome them - for instance Charedi people. The potential there is huge.”
Forming the biggest-spending group travelling to Israel, there are plans to build new infrastructure to accommodate larger Charedi families, as well as packages to hold a barmitzvah in Israel as well as to celebrate the chagim in the country rather than destinations in Europe.
At the same time, the country hopes to attract thousands more LGBT travellers, centring on Tel Aviv’s pride week. “The parade in Tel Aviv can attract not just tens of thousands of visitors but hundreds of thousands,” said Mr Levin.
While visitors may previously have been deterred by safety fears, Israel’s experience in combatting terror now makes it one of the best places in the world for a holiday, he added, with Eilat now tempting tourists who might previously have chosen sunshine breaks in Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey.
“As everyone knows, there is no ‘zero terror’ anywhere, not here [in the UK] unfortunately, not in Paris, not in Brussels, not in Turkey. In that aspect, I think the overall situation in Israel is better than some capitals in Europe… the safety of our airports and the airlines that are flying to Israel is the best in the world. I can assure you that you don’t have to be very brave.”