NEW YORK -- To counter the negative perceptions of North American
consumers monitoring the troubles in Israel in the mainstream
media, the Israel Ministry of Tourism launched an ad campaign that
highlights the "Israel you don't see on the nightly news."
"We felt that injustices were done to Israel and to tourism,"
said Arie Sommer, consul and commissioner for tourism for North
"The media are concentrating on the events almost round the
clock, and the reality is that in Israel, it's different from what
you see on television. In Israel proper, where tourists visit, it's
The campaign uses radio, magazine and newspaper advertisements
in two major markets -- Jewish and Christian media -- as well as
trade publications, including Travel Weekly.
Sommer, who has been in the ministry's New York offices for
nearly five years, said the Jewish and Christian communities were
targeted because they were the most likely "to respond positively
to our messages."
Specifically, visual spots include photographs of tourists at
top Israeli sites, such as Masada.
Advertisements include the date that the photograph was taken,
so that readers can see for themselves that tourists are visiting
the country in safety.
For radio ads, the ministry used testimonials from tourists.
The ministry is using the same campaign in Canada, but
advertisements in Europe have a different message.
Visitors to the ministry's North American Web site, www.goisrael.com, can
view a similar feature.
The section has information on what the U.S. State Department
advisories mean and where the major troubles are happening.
The ministry expects the ads to run for at least another couple
"I think the ad campaign is a good one," said Ronen Paldi,
president of Ya'lla Tours USA, in Portland, Ore.
"The normal life in Israel is not what you watch on
Paldi said his firm recently distributed a letter to travel
agents who do group business with Ya'lla.
Many agents have had "very legitimate" concerns, said Paldi, but
the reality was not what was being shown on television.
While the campaign may clarify the situation for many customers,
the fact is that tourists are staying away from Israel.
Thus far in 2001, Sommer said, Israel has seen a 40% to 50%
decrease in the number of visitors.
When the troubles subside, however, Sommer is confident
travelers will return in droves.
"There has never been a dull moment in this region for the last
3,000 years," said Sommer.
"There are ups and downs in tourism, and we are used to it. The
moment such a crisis is over, we see a dramatic increase in the
number of tourists. People don't see themselves as canceling tours
but postponing tours."
Paldi said Ya'lla has booked many groups for November, which is
a high season for Christian travelers.
Sommer also encouraged agents to contact the ministry for the
latest information about Israel.
"We can assure agents that their customers are going to be safe
in Israel and will enjoy every minute of it," said Sommer. "If
tourists were not safe in Israel, we would have asked tourists not