Successful Showing

IMTM exhibits Israel's growing tourism market

By: Terra Judge

With over 450 participating tour operators and agents, almost 100 from the United States, Israel is once again “coming alive” as their International Mediterranean Tourism Market (IMTM) motto asserted.

The 12th IMTM took place in Tel Aviv Feb. 7-8. Sponsored by the Israel Ministry of Tourism, El Al Airlines, the Israel Hotel Association and the Municipality of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, the IMTM aimed to expose Israel as a major tourism destination to a wide international audience.

Welcoming guests from over 30 countries, including Central, Western and Eastern Europe, Latin America, Morocco and Turkey, the IMTM was many attendees’ first visit to Israel.

Before the convention, operators and agents enjoyed a fam tour of the country’s tourism highlights, including the new Bahai Gardens in Haifa, Miniature Israel near Jerusalem, the new museum at Yad Vashem Holocaust Center, the Tel Aviv Bauhaus architecture and the Dead Sea.

The conference was held at the Israel Trade Fairs and Convention Center’s ultra-modern exhibition hall, with more than 5,000 square meters of space, and was made possible by 20 airlines including Israir, Continental, Iberia and Air France. The Israel Hotel Association contributed free rooms for attendees, and regional tourism associations also donated visits to local recreation sites.

On the first day of the convention, attendees explored the exhibition hall and attended seminars and workshops. Seminars focused on flights, Israel’s open-sky policy and pilgrimages. The Israel Ministry of Tourism took advantage of the opportunity to emphasize additional events in Israel, promoting the increased number of flights to Israel and the number of travel agents and tour operators that offer Israel as a travel destination.

A special poll conducted prior to the convention found that 33 percent of Israelis vacation abroad at least once a year, making day two of the conference an important one for visiting travel professionals. IMTM was open to the public on the second day, and visitors had a chance to explore travel offerings and book trips on the spot. E-appointments helped participants schedule meetings in advance via the fair’s computerized system, a highly successful new feature.

A significant achievement of the IMTM was Israel’s newly solidified partnership with Turkey’s tourism industry. The country’s minister of tourism, Attila Koc, along with five members of parliament and other ministry officials, met with Israel’s tourism minister Avraham Hirchson to promote tour packages that include both destinations. Package tours of Jewish historical sites in Turkey will now be offered to visitors to Israel, reflecting the frequency and low airfares between the two countries.

Overall, the IMTM was an opportunity for Israel to demonstrate that its tourism industry is growing. Until 1996, Israel was one of the most popular destinations for conferences and tours with more than $103 million revenue, and with general tourism to the country on the rise, the conference and tour sector is also expected to rise significantly.

“We see a consistent growth in incoming tourism ...” said Consul Arie Sommer, tourism commissioner to North and South America. “We expect that the number of tourists in 2006 will reach 3 million.”