Israel awards those who developed tourism

NEW YORK -- At the ASTA World Congress in Los Angeles, Israel presented awards to individuals and organizations that were instrumental in the development of Israel's tourism industry, according to its Ministry of Tourism office here.

Tourism to the Holy Land did not receive much attention until the late 1950s, according to Arie Sommer, commissioner for tourism in North America. When efforts to attract visitors finally were launched, "it was from America that mass tourism to Israel first began," he said.

According to the Deputy Prime Minister of Israel and Minister of Tourism Moshe Katsav, "Israel's unique contribution to the world of tourism ... will be even more apparent in the coming months, as the Christian world prepares to celebrate the beginning of the third millennium."

Marking the country's 50th anniversary, ministry representatives presented 90 awards to Americans, Canadians and Israelis at a gala dinner. "It enables us to say 'thank you,' " said Sommer, to those "whose dedication, creativity and commitment to my country have made such a difference."

Awards were presented by master of ceremonies and veteran actor, Joe Campanella; director general of the Israel Ministry of Tourism Shabtai Shay, and singer Pat Boone, Israel's unofficial "Christian Ambassador."

Corporate recipients included Air Canada, El Al Israel Airlines, TWA, the Dan Hotels Corp. and Sheraton Hotels.

Honored tour operators included, among others: Ayelet Tours in Albany, N.Y.; Consolidated Tours of Atlanta; Friendship International Tours, based in Woodland Hills, Calif.; House of Travel of Northfield, Ill.; Inspirational Tours in Houston; Israel Discovery Tours, Skokie, Ill.; Israel Tour Connection, Livingston, N.J.; Isram World of Travel in New York; Mosaic Tours & Travel, Miami; Regina Tours in Chardon, Ohio; Sabra Tours International in Baltimore; Tal Tours in Valley Stream, N.Y., and Miami-based Tuchman Meditours.

Individuals also were honored.

In the hotel industry they included: Haim Ariel, director of marketing/sales, North America, in the New York office, for the Dans of Israel, and Ellen Oppenheim, marketing director in New York for Radisson Moriah Hotels.

Honored travel professionals included: Richard Day, founder of Unitours in Greenwich, Conn.; A. Ady Gelber, president and chief executive officer of Isram World of Travel in New York; Igal Hami, president and chief executive officer of Gil Travel Tours in Philadelphia, and Christopher Hinn, cofounder of Mighty Eagle Travel and Tours in Winter Park, Fla.

Also, Dani Pipano, president and owner of Gate 1 in Glenside, Pa.; James Ridgway, president of Educational Travel Services in Lakeland, Fla.; David and Meir Weingarten, founder and manager, respectively, of Ariel Tours in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Amram Zur, a former ministry commissioner for North America and currently president of AZ Travel Associated in New York.

Media personalities who were honored included Rev. John Hagee, president and chief executive officer of Global Evangelism Television, and Pat Robertson, religious broadcaster and founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network.

In addition, an individual award was given to Morris Nachtomi, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Tower Air, and several honors went to nonprofit Jewish organizations that have encouraged tourism.

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