GETTING READY FOR THE POPE’S VISIT
THE TOURISM MINISTRY HELD THE FIRST CONFERENCE IN PREPARATION FOR THE UPCOMING VISIT OF THE POPE TO ISRAEL WITH REPRESENTATIVES OF THE TOURISM INDUSTRY
TOURISM MINISTER RUHAMA AVRAHAM-BALILA: “THE POPE’S VISIT TO THE HOLY LAND REPRESENTS A STRATEGIC ANCHOR FOR PILGRIMAGE TOURISM TO ISRAEL IN THE COMING YEARS.”
The Tourism Ministry has begun its preparations for the May visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Israel, a visit which has significant potential to increase Christian incoming tourism in general and pilgrimage tourism in particular.
The Tourism Ministry is ready to deal with all aspects of the visit (of which a formal announcement is expected in the coming days), including marketing activities to encourage pilgrimages to Israel during and after the Papal visit; preparation and upgrading the sites to be visited by the Pope; preparation of promotional material for distribution to the journalists accompanying the Pope; arranging tours and visits to tourist sites for the delegation and media etc.
In order to leverage the visit and promote Christian tourism to Israel, the Tourism Ministry held a conference this week with representatives of the tourism industry to discuss the required activities. Participants included, among others, incoming tour operators specializing in the Christian market, the Israel Hotel Association and representatives of the municipalities that will be included in the Pope’s itinerary.
In addition, the ministry will invest 6 million shekel in renovations and preparations at Christian sites in Israel, including Qasr el Yahud, the Good Samaritan site, the Cenacle (site of the Last Supper), the Jesus Trail and more. During the last decade, the ministry has invested tens of millions of shekels in developing sites including, among others, the Mount of Olives Promenade, Via Dolorosa and Christian trails in Jerusalem, Nazareth and around the Sea of Galilee.
Tourism Minister Ruhama Avraham-Balila: “The Pope’s visit to the Holy Land is an important and very significant visit that represents a strategic anchor for pilgrimage tourism to Israel in the coming years. The atmosphere of understanding, reconciliation and peace between peoples and religions that the Pope inspires will contribute to a strengthening of Israel’s image and encourage pilgrimages and tourism to Israel, especially in this period when the tourism industry is dealing with the ramifications of the global economic crisis”.
3 million tourists visited Israel in 2008, of whom 1 million were pilgrims (2 million Christians in total). Most pilgrims visit the holy Christian and Jewish sites in Jerusalem, the Galilee and Bethlehem.