NEW YORK (Nov. 20)
Israel’s Tourism Minister, Avraham Sharir (Likud-Liberal), disclosed that as a result of the recent terrorist attacks in the Mideast, there has been a disturbing decline in the number of tourists coming to Israel.
He said that many Americans who planned to go to Israel and Europe have cancelled their trips, especially after the hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro by Palestinian terrorists and the murder of an American Jewish passenger, Leon Klinghoffer, aboard the ship on October 7.
“There are many cancellations and if we don’t act now we might face a crisis in the tourist movement to Israel,” Sharir said in a special interview yesterday with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. He noted that a crisis in Israel’s tourism industry will have a disturbing affect on Israel’s troubled economy since tourism is Israel’s number one export industry, earning the country about $1.5 billion a year in foreign currency.
“I was not aware of the severity of the problem until I arrived here from Israel,” Sharir said. He added that since he arrived here last weekend he has been meeting with travel industry executives and the managements of TWA and Pan Am airlines, who are, in addition to El Al, the main air carriers to Israel, in an effort to encourage more Americans to come to Israel.
“Israel and El Al are known for their strict security measures to protect tourists from any terrorist attack,” Sharir said. He said that Pan Am and TWA have followed the El Al example and have installed new, effective security measures on their flights to Israel and elsewhere. “And once the tourist is in Israel itself, he is the safest in the world,” the Minister said.
Sharir said that Israel had hoped for about half a million American tourists in 1985. But, he warned, if the present trend of cancelling trips to Israel continues, “we will not be able to reach that goal.” He pointed out that last year 405,000 American tourists visited Israel.
“Israel has a lot to offer to the American tourist today,” Sharir maintained. “The dollar can buy in Is- rael a lot and the round trip is less than $600. In addition, for American Jews a visit to Israel is the best way to show their support for the Jewish State and the deepening of the ties with the Israeli people.”