Tourism in Jerusalem is set to move into the 21st century with the introduction of the Jerusalem Municipality’s official travel website, iTravelJerusalem.com.
The site, municipal officials hope, will boost tourism and business in the city, and introduce Israelis and visitors to a city that is not just the ancient capital of the Jewish people and an important city for Christians and Muslims, but a modern place that has everything a tourist is looking for in a vacation.
The city has spent some NIS 2 million (over $500,000) on the website, as well as the apps for smartphones and tablets; a QR (quick response) system that will provide instant information on events, places, restaurants, and more; and an in-hotel smart kiosk information system that will give guests special discounts on meals and events in the area of their hotel.
Introducing the project at a gala event in central Jerusalem, Mayor Nir Barkat said that, with the help of the site and apps, the city is hoping to bring in 10 million visitors a year, up from the record 3.5 million that visited Jerusalem last year.
The iTravelJerusalem site follows the lead of websites sponsored by other cities, such as city.com.
On the iTravelJerusalem site, tourists can book hotel rooms directly or through travel websites like Expedia and Orbitz, check out events by clicking on a date on a home page calendar, get information about the hundreds of museums in the city, and search for information via category (Eat, Sleep, Events, etc.) or by free inquiry (“What are you looking for?”), and find bus and light rail schedules.
The site also features an online store, videos and reviews of popular places, links to social media sites to allow travelers to spread the word about what they’ve seen and done, and weather reports. Tourists will also be able to see the sites before they get there thanks to Google Street Map views, which are integrated into the site.
The site is currently available in Hebrew and English, but eventually iTravelJerusalem will be offered in eight languages, including Arabic, Russian, French, Spanish, Italian and German.
“The site takes the guesswork out of traveling to Jerusalem and makes the city much more accessible,” one of the project’s directors said at the event.
Any business in Jerusalem is eligible for a free web page, with its information entered into the site’s database. Hundreds of businesses have already been added, and the city will be reaching out to others in the next few months in order to bring them on board.
Asked about the reaction of the ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities in the city to the project, Ilanit Melchior, tourism director of the Jerusalem Development Authority, told The Times of Israel that there “are no issues whatsoever, and no one has complained. We want to be of service to everyone, and we are not discriminating against any group or part of the city. We have sites, hotels and businesses in Arab areas and Haredi areas. We are doing this because it’s good for the city.”
“We want to change the perception many people have when they think of Jerusalem,” one city official said. “Jerusalem is a great place for a vacation, and we welcome everyone with open arms.”