TORONTO — The Israel Ministry of Tourism is launching its new Learning Centre for travel agents this week.
Haim Gutin-Golan, Commissioner for North & South America, was in Toronto for the launch which also marks one full year for Ami Allon as Consul Israel Ministry of Tourism-Canada.
“It’s a time for new beginnings,” he said as he outlined the new initiatives taken by the Ministry this year. These include a new campaign titled ‘Israel: Beyond Belief’, another Christian campaign directed toward the clergy, a number of fam trips, a webinar launched in New York, and now a similar venture offered in conjunction with Travelweek.
The Israel Specialist Learning Centre is an online educational tool for travel agents that should take about 90 minutes to complete. Upon completion, agents will receive a certificate, 10 CITC credits and the chance to enter to win the grand prize – two roundtrip tickets from Toronto to Israel courtesy of El Al and a five-night hotel stay for two with Dan Hotels. In addition, agents will earn the distinction of being an official Israel Specialist.
It is initiatives like these that Gutin-Golan credits for helping to maintain strong tourist arrivals from Canada. In 2012, a total of 3.5 million tourists visited Israel, 72,000 coming from Canada. Numbers are slightly down from previous years, however, when taking into account heightened conflict that took place last November as well as recent troubles in nearby Syria, the Commissioner considers it a “miracle” that numbers are as high as they are.
In fact, tourist arrivals for the month of August are up 4% compared to the same period in 2012.
“I think Canada is performing strongly because we’ve been very proactive about going after new business,” he told Travelweek. “We may not have beaches like the Bahamas and Costa Rica, but we have something that enriches your soul and mind, experiences that inspire your beliefs. We have so much to offer, the challenge now is to show people.”
Gutin-Golan looks to education as key to tourism growth, which includes presence at conferences and trade shows, creating informational materials and, of course, online tools like the Learning Centre. And with the upward trend of home-based agencies, these online tools are more essential than ever.
“It’s difficult to sell a product when you don’t know much about it,” he added. “But agents need to know that Israel is an incredibly lucrative destination to sell, especially for groups. We hope this Learning Centre will help them see that.”