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Israel’s Proposal to Hike Travel Tax Could Play Havoc with Tourism

The Finance Ministry’s proposal to double the travel tax would make all Israelis “prisoners of Zion,” the Travel Agents Association told a press conference here Friday. Their reference to Jewish activists imprisoned in the Soviet Union was only half in jest.

Minister of Tourism Avraham Sharir agreed. Although the tax does not effect non-Israelis, it could play havoc with Israel’s tourist traffic because international air carriers serving the country would cut down their number of flights.

The travel tax now stands at $150 per person. The Treasury wants to raise it to $300. Premier Shimon Peres insists it go up to $500. If either have their way, the tax will amount to more than the air fare to most European destinations, the travel agents say. The object of the tax is not to keep Israelis home but to prevent as much as possible further drainage of the country’s depleted foreign currency reserves.

The travel agents said at their press conference that Israel is the only country in the world to impose such a tax. Even at the present level, about 150,000 Israelis who planned to go abroad this year will cancel their trips, they said. The New Immigrants Association has published advertisements in the press protesting the tax. They said it prevents children from visiting sick or aging parents overseas.

The fewer Israelis travelling abroad, the more empty seats on aircraft serving Israel. The airlines would be forced to reduce the number of flights and that would mean fewer tourists arriving in Israel, airline representatives said. (By Hugh Orgel)

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