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Israel’s Ministry of Tourism serves as official host for gathering of 28 OECD member nations

Tourism Minister: "Conference is important vote of confidence in Israel’s position as an economic leader."

[Full opening speech by Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov below]

The 86th Session of the Tourism Committee of the OECD opened today in Jerusalem, hosted by Israel's Ministry of Tourism. This is only the second time in its history that the Committee meeting is being held outside of Paris.

The Conference was opened with an address by the Minister of Tourism Stas Misezhnikov, who described the event as an ""important vote of confidence in Israel's position as an economic leader," and continued, "this is an exceptional occasion for the State of Israel as we are today inaugurating the first historic OECD event taking place in Israel."

The Minister further said, "The OECD brings together governments of countries committed to democracy and to the market economy from around the world. This conference will therefore offer an ideal setting where we have the opportunity to exchange knowledge and know-how. In the tourism field, we realize our magical ability to build bridges between nations, societies, civilizations and cultures, and this conference will enable us to jointly work towards realizing those objectives."

The first OECD event to take place in Israel since the country became an official member of the organization, the session welcomed high-level delegations from 28 OECD members. The conference opened with a closed-door session of the Tourism Committee, and will be followed by a high-level roundtable, devoted to issues of green tourism and the role OECD member nations have in promoting environmentally-friendly initiatives particularly in the hotel and aviation industries. Israeli business leaders and economists will be in attendance for the Roundtable and a team of academics from the University of Haifa and the Sorbonne will present research detailing the travel industry's impact on the environment and new directions the international community can take to limit its damage.

Opening Address of Mr. Stas Misezhnikov,
Minister of Tourism of Israel, at the
86th Session of the OECD Tourism Committee in Jerusalem

Dear Madam Isabel Hill, Chair of the OECD Tourism Committee,
Dear Delegates, Observers and Invitees,
Dear members of the Secretariat, Mr. Sergio ARZENI & Mr. Alain DUPEYRAS, who have invested so much in cooperation with the administration of my ministry for the realization of this conference in Israel,

Shalom & welcome to you all at the opening of the 86th Session of the OECD Tourism Committee usually held in Paris and for this time in Jerusalem. This is in fact an exceptional occasion for the State of Israel - we are inaugurating here and today the first historic OECD event taking place in Israel.

In today's interdependent economy, we face the challenge of supporting sustainable economic growth in a borderless financial world, bearing in mind that we must boost employment and raise the living standards.

The OECD, which brings together governments of countries committed to democracy and to the market economy from around the world, offers an ideal setting where we have the opportunity to exchange knowledge and know-how. In the tourism field, we compare policy experiences, seeking for answers to common problems and identifying the good practice. In the frame of the OECD, we, the Member States, carry out analyses and forecast of our policies and strive to coordinate their implementation at the domestic and international level.

The OECD was established in the wake of World War II in order to implement the Marshall Plan. Today the organization counts 32 market economy democracies formally collaborating with 70 developing and emerging economies. It is a successful framework transforming the approach and relations between nations and a raw model for our region where a stable and strong economy would benefit all the inhabitants.

Moreover, dealing with tourism, our field of expertise, we realize our magic ability to build bridges between nations, societies, civilizations, cultures - in other words, facilitate the voyage to the other, meeting him in his environment permitting to develop beyond expectations the human social dimension.

Based upon stability and common interest, cities like Jerusalem and Bethlehem are cooperating for the well-being of thousands of visitors, daily crossing from Israel to the Palestinian Authority and vice-versa, benefiting the citizens of those cities. I am confident that this tourism dynamism will spread and we can anticipate the combination with other localities like Jericho joining in that form of cooperation.

Among international organizations, the OECD is the strongest, most effective proponent of open, competitive innovative market economies. Through its pioneering public policy research, and effective approach, involving the public and private sectors, the OECD is a dynamic international incubator for new ideas.

In the course of this Session, the peer review of tourism in Italy will be presented – a concrete lesson for all of us from a leading country in the field of Tourism. Our professional team at the Ministry of Tourism will initiate a special meeting with the Italian delegation in order to make best use of the study of the Italian experience undertaking an appropriate analysis of the strengths and weaknesses in our systems.

We will be focusing in the three forthcoming days on the professional agenda of tourism. The OECD's economic analysis and surveillance is recognized among the best in the world. It fixes international standards supported by the public and private sector. This is an adequate forum where listening to each other permits to project for the future and do best for the international industry of tourism.

This regular session of the tourism committee will be followed back-to-back by a High Level Round Table fostering on "Green Tourism". We will have the opportunity of being addressed by academics in an innovative research, leading figures from the industry and prominent economists. Our keynote speakers, Dr. Taleb RIFAI, the Secretary General of the UNWTO, Mr. Aart DE GEUS, Deputy Secretary General of the OECD and Prof. Stanley Fisher, the Governor of the Bank of Israel will enrich our unique encounter here in Israel. Just to mention, that the governor of the Bank of Israel, is one of the architect of the solid economy of the State of Israel which overcame in good terms the last world crisis.

In 2009, close to two million seven hundred thousand visitors entered Israel. As we know, due to the global economic crisis, the year 2009 opened on a difficult trend. We adopted and implemented a new concept positioning Israel in its exclusive tourist particularities focusing on History, Culture and Religion. At the same time we maintained the interest in the other leisure elements. Beginning from May 2009, we started to benefit from this new policy, the trend changed and we will be concluding the year 2010 with close to 3.3 million tourists - a remarkable increase of more than half million tourists. Concerning our hotels infrastructure built on close to 48 thousand rooms, we noted a high level of occupancy along the year.

Israel is positioned today as a destination in the general market offering culture and discovery, leisure and fun preserving the particularities of our sites. The religious and historical heritage of Israel and our region, cradle of the monotheist civilizations and cultures, belongs to the world collective memory.

The advanced infrastructure of Israel permits to tour and discover the country in comfort from the green and serene Galilee to the inspiring desert of the Negev, from the trendy and hi-tech Tel Aviv to the spiritual and cultural Jerusalem, leisure and fun in Eilat and magic facing the Sea of Galilee from the city of Tiberias.

The Dead Sea – the lowest place on earth - is competing as an international site on behalf of Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority against 27 other natural sites around the world in the finals of the New 7 Wonders of Nature global campaign. Another productive area of cooperation.

Out of the basic values that our region contributed to the world modern society, tourism transmits reciprocate openness, constructive dialogue, recognition of each other and tolerance in mutual respect.

Dear guests, accept on behalf of the State of Israel and the Ministry of Tourism, our most welcome and warmest shalom here in Jerusalem, City of all memories.