Israel expands tourism Web site info, functions

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NEW YORK -- The Israel Ministry of Tourism debuted a revamped Web site last month, www.goisrael.com, that provides more information and functionality to travel agents and consumers than the previous site, according to Noa Artzi, director of information services.

"The big difference is that the site is built as a direct marketing-oriented site," said Artzi. "We really try to address the different segments that are interested in Israel and try to focus the site to their needs."

Goisrael.com's first incarnation launched in 1997. Artzi said the new Goisrael.com's redesign process started in September 2000.

"I think it's a great site, but I'm not objective," said Artzi. "This is my personal baby."

The site is designed for use by residents of North America. Travel agents have a dedicated section on the site, accessible through a home page button labeled, naturally, "Travel Agents."

Agents are asked to register if new to the site or sign in with an e-mail address and password.

Once into the site, agents can find contact information for tour operators, any packages being offered through the site or register to become an Israel specialist.

The latter is a bit of a bonus because the site's consumer sections direct visitors to agents who are Israel specialists.

Travel agents can also use Goisrael.com to order brochures, maps, letterhead and other marketing tools.

"It should be a very friendly and easy working tool for the agent, and more than just information," said Artzi. "We wanted to take it to a more sophisticated level."

In its consumer-oriented sections, the site makes no bones about who it's aiming for. The page's "Discover Israel" section, for example, has links for visitors with Jewish, Catholic or Protestant interests.

Clicking on the Protestant link, for instance, brings up a subpage with links for a sample itinerary or information on how to order a Protestant-themed travel kit.

Other links lead to sections on ecotourism, archaeology and spa and health facilities in the Holy Land.

Artzi said the site upgraded its trip-planning section so that users can check on currency conversion rates and temperatures.

The Ministry of Tourism has other enhancements on the drawing board.

Artzi said the site might be developed to handle bookings in the future, but technological issues now are preventing such functionality. She expects these problems to be ironed out before long, and users will be able to book with Israeli hotels directly through the site.

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