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Netanyahu sets goal of 10 million tourists a year

Minister Naftali Bennett says ‘we can do much more’ by changing regulations and easing bureaucracy

Aaron Kalman is a former writer and breaking news editor for the Times of Israel

Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in Jerusalem, Wednesday (photo credit: Morag Bitan/PMO)
Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in Jerusalem, Wednesday (photo credit: Morag Bitan/PMO)

Israel should have 10 million tourists a year within the decade, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told participants at the Second Jerusalem International Tourism Summit Wednesday.

“We have doubled the number of tourists in the last few years from 1.5 million to 3 million per year and we need to double this number again and continue the growth,” Netanyahu said

Israel “is in a good economic position to address the challenges ahead,” the prime minister said, noting that the country leads the OECD in growth and number of jobs created. “There is great potential in multiplying the number of tourists arriving to Israel, which will generate additional jobs.”

Netanyahu reminded the audience that tourists will continue to be exempt from VAT taxes of 18%, as the government rejected a proposal that surfaced during recent budget discussions. He also noted that the government had risked an aviation industry strike and approved the Open Skies agreement with the European Union in the hope of lowering the costs of flights from Europe to Israel. “We are committed to tourism, and committed to protecting it.”

Naftali Bennett, minister of the economy as well as Jerusalem and Diaspora affairs, said the city was a long way from reaching its full potential. “Our goal is to show this incredible asset — Jerusalem. And we are talking business. Three million tourists out of a billion potential is quite low. We can do much more.”

According to Tourism Ministry statistics, 8 out of 10 tourists to Israel visit Jerusalem.

“Our greatest task is to cut through various problems that have hampered us, especially bureaucracy and over-regulation,” Bennett said. “In the upcoming years, we will witness a major change in the economy since we will ease the regulations. We are already doing so today, and you have not seen anything yet.”

The Second Jerusalem International Tourism Summit was taking place at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem on Tuesday and Wednesday.

According to a press statement, this year a special emphasis was being placed on urban tourism as well as innovative technologies in the world of tourism and travel. Global leaders, academics and experts in the field of hospitality discussed a wide range of issues affecting the tourism industry, and a special panel focused on technology in tourism, including tourism-related apps.

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