A packaged tour of four countries in the Middle East with seamless transfers and hotel stays in each one? The day may not be so far in coming. Tourism officials of
Israel, the Palestinian
Authority, Egypt and Jordan met at the Dan Panorama Hotel in
Tel Aviv on Jan. 25 to discuss how they could work together to attract tourism.
With such speakers as Israel's Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres; Saeb Erekat, minister of negotiations for the Palestinian Authority, and Israel Borovich, El Al's chairman of the board, in attendance, there was plenty of star power for some 200 people who attended the regional tourism
conference co-hosted by the Israel Hotel Managers Association and the Peres
Center for Peace.
Less-public working discussions among travel and tourism professionals of the four countries in the long run may produce the networking and teamwork so necessary
for effective tourism promotion.
Janos Damon, executive director of the Israel Hotel Managers Association, said the professionals
at their meeting agreed a joint study should be undertaken to determine the impact regional tourism has on economic stability. Participants also called for steps to facilitate freedom of movement among tourism professionals through the four countries of the region. It was recommended a working group be established to deal with such issues as security, freedom of movement, and visas.
Another decision was to develop joint marketing programs to attract tourists from outside the region, as well as to encourage people within the region to visit each other's
countries, Damon said. Cooperative training programs, including exchanges of hotel staff personnel and tour operators,
also were recommended.
The four-nation group also decided to hold a meeting within about a year in Taba, Egypt, with the meeting after that to take place in Jordan, according to Damon.
Delegates from Egypt included Alaa Hafez, chairman of MAX Transportation; Bahgat Badawy, IMC chairman; Elhamy Elzayat, chairman of Emeco Travel; Ezz El-Dein El-Shabrawy, president of Egyptian American Tours; and Nabil Abdellatif, chairman of Starco Travel.
From Jordan, the delegates were Abdul Hakeem Al-Hindi, assistant chairman of the board and managing
director of the Jordan Hotel Association; Naser Riyal, manager of Plaza Tours; Salah Riyal, sales director of Plaza Tours, and
Suhail Shaban, administrative & finance officer of the Jordan Hotel Association.
Representing Palestinian/ Arab hotels and tourism were Fahmi Nashashibi, owner
and general manager of the Golden Walls Hotel of Jerusalem; George Abu Aita, a board member of the Arab Hotel Association; Gilbert Albina, executive director
ASTAP (Administrative Services office for Tourism Associations); Habib Khoury, PPHS Coordinator of Notre Dame of Jerusalem
Center's hospitality section; Haidar Husseini, manager of Lawrence Tours and ASTAP spokesperson; Mark Khano, owner and
manager of the Guiding Star Tourist Office; Raed Saadeh, president of the Arab Hotel
Association and managing director of Jerusalem Hotel; Raji Khoury, president of the Arab Tourist & Travel Agents Association, and Yousef Daher, executive director of the Arab Hotel Association.
Besides by Damon, Israel's tourism industry was represented by Abraham Rosenthal, director general of the Israel Hotel Association and secretary of the International Hotel and Restaurant Association; Ady Maor, general manager of the Dan Panorama Hotel in
Tel Aviv and chairman of the Israel Hotel Managers Association; Ami Etgar, general manager of
Israel Incoming Tour Operators Association; Deborah Mantzur, director of the
professional-training-in-tourism department for the Ministry of Tourism; Hagit
Ringel, director of the international relations department of the Ministry of Tourism; Rachel Goldberg, general manager of
the Jerusalem Gates Hotel; and Yonathan Harpaz, executive director of the Jerusalem Hotel Association.