Israel has big plans for Canada

Sometimes, the best visits are the ones you have to wait for. Well it has been close to 20 years by all accounts since a tourism minister from Israel has visited Canada, but this week, the wait ended and Israel’s Minister of Tourism, Stas Misezhnikov certainly made up for lost time, telling a group of top travel industry executives and potential investors that Canada has been and continues to be Israel’s “best friend” on all levels. Certainly on the tourism side, the Canadian market has been producing an increasing number of visitors through both good times and bad. In fact, Misezhnikov pointed out that while there have been arrival drops in the 25% range throughout the world of tourism, Canada has continued to perform strongly, sending Israel an increasing number of visitors year after year. In 2011, Israel welcomed 3.5 million visitors and Misezhnikov indicated that while there are challenges, the target of Israel’s five-year plan for tourism is to hit the 4-million mark. As for Canada, the target for 2012 is 80,000 and by 2015, the goal is to increase that figure to 100,000. Misezhnikov noted that while these are challenging times — and he admitted that the Arab Spring has certainly had an impact — Israel has been quick to adapt to market conditions in an effort to replace flagging arrivals from destinations like Egypt by moving into new markets that include China, India, Brazil and Russia. The Minister also revealed that he’s put a special committee in place to look at how Israel can reduce the price of its vacation packages by 20%. And as Misezhnikov sees it, the best way to do that is to reduce the taxes levied on its tourism operators and products. In June or July of this year, Misezhnikov said that Israel will become part of the European Union’s Open Skies program and while he admits there are some dangers for Israeli airlines, there are opportunities as well. And he noted that to minimize the impact, Israel would phase in the Open Skies program in stages. In his closing remarks at a presentation in Toronto, Misezhnikov told his audience that “because of you we are succeeding and we will [continue] to succeed in the future,” pointing out that the best selling feature that Israel has going for it is the people who visit, see how safe and secure the country is and then go back and tell Israel’s story to their friends. And Misezhnikov concluded his remarks by observing: “I will see you all in Israel.”