Israel Ministry of Tourism to hire PR firm for mainstream outreach

NEW YORK: The Israeli Ministry of Tourism (IMT) is looking for an agency as it helps promote "modern Israel" to secular American consumers.

NEW YORK: The Israeli Ministry of Tourism (IMT) is looking for an agency as it helps promote "modern Israel" to secular American consumers.

The tourism department sent an RFP to seventeen agencies nearly a month ago. It expects to pick a firm sometime in the first quarter of 2006. 

Arie Sommer, IMT counsel and commissioner for tourism for North and South America, said the campaign would branch outside of traditional visitors like Christian and Jewish groups to a wide swath of American tourists. The selected PR agency will back up a $3.5 million advertising campaign, entitled, "Israel: Who Knew?" Television ads will run in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami. Online ads will be placed on Yahoo and Expedia. Once selecting an agency, Sommer said he expected to target both general interest and tourism trade media surrounding the advertising campaign.

"After a very long time of absence from the media, we have decided to its time for us to be visible again," Sommer said. "It's a very simple message: Israel is open for business."

Israel has attracted about 400,000 US tourists this year, and wants to ramp up to 3 million in 2006.

Sommer said the campaign would show the modern Israel beyond the religious sites popular with Christian and Jewish tourists. While he expected secular travelers to also find those sites interesting, the IMT wanted to highlight Israel's natural beauty, nightlife, cuisine, and sporting activities. It will also reach out to the itinerant set, positioning Israel as a must-visit for adventure travelers.

"For those traveling outside the US and looking for additional destinations, Israel is a great choice," Sommer said.

Despite the broader focus, Sommer said that the Christian and Jewish market was still important and ads would run on religious media like CBN television.

Sommer added that the campaign would not focus on issues of conflict with the Palestinians or Israel's safety, saying that the peace process was well-documented elsewhere.

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