Jerusalem mayor: We will bring 10 million tourists to Jerusalem
American Jewish entrepreneur Sheldon Adelson awarded prize for innovation and excellence in tourism • Sheldon and wife Dr. Miriam Adelson also awarded Jerusalem's "Honorary Citizen" prize • Mayor Nir Barkat: Sheldon Adelson is a beacon and an inspiration.
From right to left: Tourism Minister Uzi Landau, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Dr. Miriam Adelson, Sheldon Adelson, two Birthright participants
Photo credit: Dudi Vaknin
Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson receive Jerusalem's "Honorary Citizen" prize
Photo credit: Courtesy of Jerusalem Municipality
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Tuesday unveiled his plan to bring 10 million tourists to Israel's capital every year. The initiative is part of efforts to effect economic growth in the capital, and it will be an important part of Barkat's plan to introduce 100,000 new jobs during his next term -- if he is re-elected.
Barkat, who took part in the 2013 Jerusalem Innovative Tourism Summit on Tuesday, remarked that up until several years ago, only 2 million tourists visited the city annually, whereas today the number has doubled to about 4 million. Tourism promotes growth, business and culture, he said further.
"When I visit places around the world, I see people's desire to visit Jerusalem," Barkat recounted. "In recent years, we have allocated a lot of resources to the development of tourism in the city, investing in development and infrastructure planning and promoting domestic and international tourism in Jerusalem. I am pleased that we can show positive results, and the tourism in the city is displaying a consistent upward trend."
Jerusalem is the city most frequented by tourists, with 80 percent of tourists to Israel visiting the capital. Last summer, Jerusalem also surpassed Haifa and Tel Aviv in the number of vacationing Israeli tourists. In 2012, some 3.1 million foreign tourists and 762,000 domestic tourists stayed at Jerusalem hotels (an 11% increase in domestic tourism), and the hotels in the city reported revenues of about 1.1 billion shekels.
Several months ago, the Jerusalem Municipality approved a plan for a new business compound to be erected at the entrance to the city. The compound is expected to become a business, tourism and culture hub in the coming years. The plan calls for 12 skyscrapers, which will add about a million square meters (11 million square feet) in office space and some 50,000 new jobs in the city.
Tourists as ambassadors
Tourism Minister Uzi Landau also addressed the summit, stressing that "sometimes tourists can succeed where politicians have failed."
"We are ready to put a special emphasis on attracting tourists from the Far East, China, India and South America too. When a tourist comes to Israel, he becomes an ambassador in his native country because he has seen the truth with his own eyes. Our goal is to turn Israel into a tourism superpower," Landau said.
According to Mira Altman, the director of the International Convention Center which hosted the summit, "the marriage between Jerusalem and the international convention industry ensures economic growth and increased global tourism in the city, and in the country as a whole."
Meanwhile Tuesday, Jewish-American entrepreneur Sheldon Adelson received the Jerusalem Innovative Tourism Summit Honorary Award for excellence and innovation in global tourism. The prize was ceremoniously awarded to Adelson by the tourism minister and participants of Taglit-Birthright Israel.
Adelson, who received the prize for his innovative and unprecedented contribution to the global tourism industry, made no effort to hide his excitement. "I am a Zionist," he said, "and Israel is the home of the Jewish people. Jerusalem is the most beautiful city in the world." Adelson's remarks prompted enthusiastic applause.
Barkat congratulated Adelson, saying, "He is a classic example of an entrepreneur who proved that he could change the face of tourism in the world. We have a lot to learn from him. He is an avid Zionist who invests in Taglit-Birthright and has invested heavily in Jerusalem. He is a beacon and an inspiration, as a Jew who succeeded and someone who cares very much about the Jewish people."
In a separate ceremony, Sheldon and Dr. Miriam Adelson received Jerusalem's Honorary Citizen prize, owing to their long-time contribution to the development of the city in the fields of tourism, higher education, medical research, and Holocaust commemoration, and for being loyal ambassadors for the city of Jerusalem.
The Adelsons, well known for their philanthropic generosity and avid support for Israel, have donated large sums to various Israeli institutions over the years, with an emphasis on education and human resources. The couple has donated some $50 million to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, $3 million to Hadassah Medical Organization and to the Adelson Family Foundation, among other institutions. They are also the chief contributors to Taglit-Birthright Israel, the most successful Zionist program in the world, with a cumulative donation of $180 million dollars over the years. Since its establishment in 2000, more than 360,000 Jewish youths have visited Israel from more than 60 countries worldwide.
Full disclosure: Sheldon and Dr. Miriam Adelson own the company that is the primary shareholder of Israel Hayom.