Oscar trip could see 26 VIPs, and their companions, here
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Oscar trip could see 26 VIPs, and their companions, here

Even if only a few celebs take advantage of goody-bag giveaway, the publicity would be wonderful, says Tourism Ministry

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Cate Blanchett in 'The Monuments Men' (AP/Columbia Pictures/Claudette Barius)
Cate Blanchett in 'The Monuments Men' (AP/Columbia Pictures/Claudette Barius)

Will 2016 bring Leonardo DiCaprio to Tel Aviv? Will we see Cate Blanchett at the Western Wall? Sylvester Stallone hiking the Ramon Crater?

Their trip is already in the bag. The Oscar swag bag.

Twenty-six Oscar notables — the five nominees for best director, as well and the four nominees each for best actor, best actress, best supporting actor and best supporting actress, plus Chris Rock, this year’s master of ceremonies at the Academy Awards — will receive a free VIP trip for two to Israel, courtesy of the Tourism Ministry and ExploreIsrael.com, owned by an ultra-Orthodox pair of tour operators from Brooklyn.

“It was their idea,” said a ministry spokesperson of the Oscar giveaway.

The ministry “embraced” the idea, she said, and it is the ministry that will pay for all of the land arrangements for the VIP travelers, including hotels, transportation, guides and activities.

It was not immediately clear who is paying for the flights to Israel.

While reports have quoted the original Daily Beast price tag of $55,000 for each of the 10-day VIP Israel packages, the actual figure is lower, said the ministry spokesperson. Land arrangements would cost between $15,000 and $18,000 per person, and even with first-class plane tickets, the total price would not reach $55,000 per Oscar nominee.

The ministry had no doubt that the trips are worthwhile, for all concerned.

“The ministry invests serious money for top VIP treatment for celebrities because there is very favorable publicity that comes from that,” she said. “It’s not just from the celebrity, but in these days of social media and Instagram and Twitter and Facebook, it can reach millions and millions of followers. It’s a very powerful marketing tool.”

Each eligible Oscar goody-bag recipient can bring a travel partner, she noted. If they do decide to use the travel voucher, their trip has to be made during the 2016 calendar year.

“Clearly fiftysomething people won’t come,” she said. “But if two or four come, it would be amazing.”

When celebrities like Martha Stewart visit Israel on ministry-sponsored trips, they create a positive buzz that is well worth the expense, according to a tourism ministry spokesperson (Courtesy Flash 90)
When celebrities like Martha Stewart visit Israel on ministry-sponsored trips, they create a positive buzz that is well worth the expense, according to a Tourism Ministry spokesperson. (Flash 90)

The Tourism Ministry often hosts “opinion-makers” from different fields, said the spokesperson. They can be religious and community leaders, actors, singers, pop stars.

“Part of Israel’s challenges is to show the country as a normative, exciting, beautiful tourism destination,” she said. “We’re not what they see on CNN every day.”

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