Israel boosts tourism push

New York: The Israeli Ministry of Tourism (IMT) has hired Geoffrey Weill Associates (GWA), a firm it has worked with in the past, to handle PR as it hopes to convince Americans that the recently brokered cease fire should not preclude them from visiting the country.

New York: The Israeli Ministry of Tourism (IMT) has hired Geoffrey Weill Associates (GWA), a firm it has worked with in the past, to handle PR as it hopes to convince Americans that the recently brokered cease fire should not preclude them from visiting the country.

Although the agency search predated the conflict with Hezbollah, IMT counsel and tourism commissioner Arie Sommer said a major part of initial outreach would involve addressing the recent events by bringing journalists, TV crews, and opinion leaders to Israel.

"The war is over and the major task of the PR agency is to help us bring home that the northern part of Israel is safe again and everything is back to normal," he said.

President Geoffrey Weill said GWA is also working with media that can't visit Israel, and will send viral videos on the Internet.

IMT has been without a firm since it and 5WPR parted ways amicably in fall 2004, according Sommer. GWA had handled the IMT's PR from 1995 to 2003.

Sommer said that while IMT's communications campaigns will contain specific outreach to Jewish and Christian contingents, it will also make a large push for secular American tourists.

Sommer said the IMT's goal is to raise American tourist visits from today's annual figure of 450,000 to 1 million by 2009.

Additional reporting by Elizabeth Krietsch.

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