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Facing the Challenges of 2013

A report by Consul Haim Gutin, Israel Tourism Commissioner, North and South America: February 2013

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2012 was a year filled with both great achievements and difficult obstacles.

Despite the 10-day conflict in December, travelers remained steadfast in their commitment to travel to Israel to explore our historic holy sites, burgeoning culinary scene and gorgeous landscapes. With the help of this vital support, Israel reached a new all-time high for tourism in 2012 with the arrival of 3.5 million visitors from around the world including 583,617 travelers from the U.S.


Facing new challenges, the Ministry of Tourism in North and South America created a variety of marketing, public relations, advertising and social media strategies to help maintain the momentum of the gradual increase in tourism experienced over the past few years.


We are absolutely thrilled with the results garnered by the Ministry's efforts to promote Israel as one of the world's most unique and diverse tourism attractions. As a result of these efforts, tourism to Israel from the Americas has maintained its momentum in 2012, and we have continued to see a massive increase in cruise tourism over the past few years. We are excited about the future, especially this April as we celebrate Israel's 65th anniversary with outdoor festivals, street fairs and cultural events.



Haim Gutin
Israel Tourism Commissioner, North & South America


Promoting tourism to Israel is all about niche marketing. The Ministry of Tourism has long established goals to reach a variety of audiences, including:
  • "World" or "sophisticated" travelers,
  • Christian Evangelicals,
  • Roman Catholics, 
  • Jewish Americans and
  • Latin American and native Spanish-speakers,
underscoring a variety of facets and interests that Israel holds for travelers. Religious tourism and pilgrimage, vacation travel, culinary, spa and medical tourism and the underscoring of Tel Aviv as one of the world's "hottest" destinations, as well as Jerusalem with its unprecedented mix of historic holy sites, are just some of the messages Israel seeks to convey. 

Just a few of the campaign highlights are detailed here...


The Ministry of Tourism undertook a multi-million dollar advertising campaign in 2011 which carried into 2012, underscoring that "There's a little bit of Israel in all of us. Come Find the Israel in You." Television commercials ran in the New York and Los Angeles metropolitan areas and in south Florida. Print advertising appeared in national magazines, major newspapers and traveltrade media. The chief message was that Israel - with Jerusalem at its heart - is an utterly unique and phenomenal travel destination.

In 2012, the Israel Ministry of Tourism also:  
  • Held events for media in a variety of US cities, including the City of David event with Israeli archeologist at the Museum of Biblical Art in New York City, March 2012 ​4115.jpg
  • Brought more than 100 travel, food, wine and religious journalists to Israel in individual and group trips, resulting in articles and coverage generating hundreds of millions of impressions 
  • Organized the first-ever SATW Freelance Council Meeting in Israel, which brought 100 journalists to Israel and produced 340 million print and web impressions 
  • ​Brought PBS' Royal Tour with Peter Greenberg to film two episodes with Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu
  • Celebrity hostings including Omar Epps, Mekhi Phifer and the crews of CSI: NY and CSI: Miami, as well as four U.S. celebrity chefs, resulting in hundreds and thousands of Tweets and Facebook posts, several million print and web impressions and several articles in leading food blogs 3583.jpg
  • Brought to Israel the hosts of two of the U.S.'s most popular travel TV and radio series, Grannies on Safari and Rudy Maxa's World
  • Hosted the staff of OUT magazine, which concluded in a massive 60-page series of articles and a fashion photo shoot highlighting tourism to Israel, in addition to significant online and social media coverage
  • Hosted the executive editor of Saveur magazine, a leading food and wine publication, which concluded in the magazine naming Tel Aviv's Levinsky Market as the Top Food Destination for 2012
  • Brought journalists as part of the Where Else Convention
  • Undertook creative advertisements in bus stops in Toronto and Montreal
  • Participated in travel trade shows in cities across the U.S.
  • Promoted unique events in Israel, including Tel Aviv Arts Weekend and the Jerusalem Season of Culture, Tel Aviv Fashion Week, Stand With Us, Masada Opera Festival 
  • Created webinars for travel agents i.e. Virtuoso, Signature, NTA 
  • The Ministry-initiated "Best Deals" website on conjured 800,000 hits
  • Invested $3.5 million in joint marketing activities with tour operators in addition to seminars, conventions: Virtuoso, New York Times Travel Show, NTA, USTOA, etc.  
  • Continued a multi-million dollar advertising campaign in the U.S. and Canada



Massive efforts were undertaken to attract increased Christian tourism to Israel:

  • Hosted Celebrate Israel Breakfast four times at the annual NRB Convention in Tennessee 
  • Brought influential members of the NRB board to Israel
  • Hosted first-ever gala breakfast at the annual Southern Baptist Convention and sponsored the Southern Baptist Executive Committee trip to Israel
  • Promotion of the new Holy Land Spirit Facebook page

  • Initiated Easter holiday contest with a chance to win a free trip to the Holy Land
  • Brought prominent Christian leaders from Brazil to tour the Holy Land
  • Invested $1.5 million with specialized Christian-market tour operators (part of agreement)
  • Participated in Christian conventions and seminars all over the Bible Belt
  • Created dialogue with Christian communities through newsletters and meetings
  • Distributed Easter and Christmas Newsletters to Christian leaders and media
  • Initiated new efforts to create joint projects with:
    • Assemblies of God
    • Convoy of Hope
    • 12/12
    • Four Square Church
    • Eagles' Wings
    • Esperanza
    • Promise Keepers   
    • Alma Vision
    • Christian Television Network
    • Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches
    • The Southern Baptist Convention


The Ministry launched new initiatives focusing on promoting tourism to the American Catholic market, including a meeting between Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Head of the Archdiocese in New York, and Haim Gutin, Israel Commissioner for Tourism, North and South America. 

A variety of advertising supplements were custom created for Jewish 

media. Additionally, The Ministry undertook joint advertising campaigns with:

  • The Jewish National Fund, and with
  • EL AL Israel Airlines 
  • Moment magazine Israel supplement (pictured below)


The Ministry continued the efforts begun in 2005 to promote the singularity of Tel Aviv as one of the world's "hottest" destinations, underscoring the city's cultural attractions, high quality cuisine and restaurants, 24-hour nightlife, singular shopping, and its attractiveness to GLBT travelers. Because of the Ministry's initiative, in 2012 Tel Aviv was voted: 

  • Top city in the world (
  • Second best city in the Middle East (Travel+Leisure)
  • Top beach destination (Lonely Planet)
  • One of the world's most innovative cities (Wall Street Journal) 

While the general North American campaign included advertising, public relations, marketing and social media activities in Canada, special Canadian promotions included:  

  • ​Meetings between IsraelTourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov, Haim Gutin, Israel Commissioner for Tourism, North and South America and the Mayors of Toronto and Montreal, as well as leading Canadian tourism officials3398.jpg
  • Sponsorship of a "Win a Free Trip to Israel" contest at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival, in which more than 3,000 filmgoers participated 
  • The Ministry's first-ever bus-shelter advertising campaign in Toronto
  • Welcome of new IGTO Canada Consul for Tourism, Ami Allon
  • Distribution of French-language press releases and newsletters to Canadian media 
  • Encouragement and participation in Dragon Boat Festival in Israel which was covered by news sites across Canada


Unprecedented marketing efforts were undertaken in Latin America, 

with particular effort in Brazil, Mexico and Argentina: 4040.jpg

  • Hosted a "Visit Israel" press event in Mexico City attended by Mexican Congresswoman Rosi Orozco and leading travel influencers
  • Participated in the annual FITA tourism fair in Mexico City
  • Brought leading journalists from Spanish-speaking publications to Israel, resulting in one-half million print and web impressions


The Israel Ministry of Tourism launched in 2012 with a new focus on interacting with travel media and consumers through various social media forums, including Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. As part of its overall social media plan, IMOT initiated a multi-faceted approach to increase its social media presence, including: 

  • Increasing the "fan likes" of the Israel Ministry of Tourism's "Go Israel" Facebook from 4,000 in 2011 to 27,000 at the end of 2012.
  • Bringing top US television and film celebrities to Israel for a tour highlighting the country's most unique and visited tourist destinations, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of social media posts on Facebook and Twitter.


  • The promotion of the Holy Land Spirit Facebook contest including the distribution of a press release to thousands of travel journalists and travel industry professional around the U.S. 
  • Initiation of bloggers' press trip including the hosting of some of the top travel blogs in the U.S. and Canada (Huffington Post, Fodors',, and The Travel Presse) which resulted in hundreds of Twitter and Facebook posts reaching millions of consumers across North America.

All in all, 2012 was a spectacular year for tourism to Israel - particularly in light of regional conditions. And 2013 is already proving to be similarly promising. 

 Sites & Attractions

Promenade along the walls of the Old City, from which there is a view of large portions...
A public building which is the center of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) i...
A wide space on the Mount of Olives, above the Jewish cemetery, from which there is a v...
A sign-posted promenade descending from Dung Gate along the Ofel excavation sites, reac...
The Time Elevator Jerusalem is a journey through the rich 3,000 year history of Jerusal...
Antiquities museum containing a rich collection of archaeological findings from excavat...


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