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Friendly Tourist Relations Between Israel, Egypt Predicted

Gideon Patt, Israel’s Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism, predicted that friendly tourist relations between Israel and Egypt “will develop much faster than we imagine” and before long thousands of Israeli and Egyptian tourists will be exchanging visits between their countries.

Noting that Israel and Egypt will declare their borders open on May 27, Patt told a press luncheon at the St. Regis Hotel yesterday that “it will be a question of days, maybe weeks, “before the flow of tourists starts on both sides.

He predicted that within a three-month period after May 27, land links will be established between the two countries. He said the tourist industries of Israel and Egypt would benefit from the influx of millions of tourists from all over the world who will visit both on package tours. Patt stressed the importance of tourism to Israel’s economy.

Patt said his ministry has set a goal of two million tourists from all parts of the world by the year 1982-83 and that it was aiming especially to increase the number of American tourists to a half million by 1980-81, which, he said, means increasing the number of non-Jewish tourists.

IMPROVED SERVICES FOR TOURISTS

He disclosed that 1, 176,000 tourists visited Israel in 1978 of whom 293,000 were from the United States. In order to increase the tourist traffic, Patt said his ministry is making efforts to improve services for visitors. He said he is “sure” that there will be cooperation in the future between the Israeli and Egyptian tourism ministries, particularly in the area of package tours. But, he added, this will require negotiations between the two ministries. He said he is anxious to meet with his Egyptian counterpart to discuss cooperative ventures.

With respect to the fate of Israeli tourist facilities in Sinai, particularly the resorts built by Israel on the Red Sea, Patt said they would continue to operate over the next three years while Israel is engaged in withdrawing its forces from Sinai. He said his ministry is “toying with the idea” of reaching some kind of agreement with Egypt that would ensure the future operation of those facilities after the Israeli withdrawal is completed. He did not elaborate.

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