New Israeli Director Of Tourism For Canada Is Eager To Work With Trade

Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw

(l to r) Jerry Adler, Israel’s Deputy Director of Tourism for Canada/Director PR & Communications; Gal Hana, Consul/Director of Tourism for Canada and Ellen Melman, Director of Operations & Marketing.

With Israeli tourism – and Canadian travel to Israel – at record highs, Gal Hana, the recently appointed Consul/Director of Tourism for Canada for the Israel Ministry of tourism, arrived in Toronto a few weeks ago at an auspicious time. 

“It took us 20 years to go from two to three million visitors,” said Hana, in a meet-and-greet with Canadian travel trade media. “We then went from three to four million in one year and are now planning on five million. Our next challenge is a lack of rooms to accommodate everyone who wants to visit.”

Hana, who brought his spouse and four children along on his first assignment abroad, is eager to get to work. There has been an absence in the Director of Tourism for Canada role for the past few years, and while the number of Canadian visitors has continued to rise on a monthly basis, Hana says there’s work to do.

“We want to wake things up with the industry, with airlines, tour operators and travel agents. We want to get the message out that everyone can find what he looks for in Israel, and if you’re not selling Israel, you need to start,” Hana said.

In recent years Israel has broadened the appeal of its tourism product through developments targeting groups outside of the faith-based market that is its bread-and-butter.

“Faith-based travel is Coca-Cola to Israel,” Hana said. “It’s a self-selling product.”

Broadening the appeal means promoting products far from Israel’s traditional base, including hiking, cycling, desert tourism in the Negev, Dead Sea wellness, LGBTQ travel and even cuisine and nightlife-focused vacations in Tel Aviv.

Fast-rising visitor numbers have spurred Israel to offer strong incentives for hospitality development, and 5,000 new rooms are set to open in the next two years – a major boost to the 12,000 currently available in the country.

“With current occupancy levels in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem we’re close to full,” Hana said. He says new accommodation options will  include non-traditional choices like boutique hotels in historic buildings, and hotels within shopping malls that have empty space due to the rise of online shopping.

Hana is also excited about larger hotel projects such as the Six Senses Shaharut, opening soon about 30 minutes from Eilat. The five-star property will feature 60 suites and pool villas, and offer unique experiences like upscale camel camping overnights and a spa and wellness focus. 

That property and other new choices in the Eilat area are benefitting from the recent opening of the Eilat-Ramon Airport, which has added 50 new routes to Israel this year alone.

“We’re not objective, but we really believe in our tourism product,” said Hana. “Even if you’re not religious, there’s a connection with Israel, and especially Jerusalem. I’m here to show and tell what has happened in Israeli tourism in the last few years. I want to help build new selling channels to the general market. And I want to work with the Canadian industry because we still see a huge segment of travellers that is loyal to tour operators and travel agents.”

Bruce Parkinson

Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief

An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years, Bruce uses the pre-dawn hours to prepare a daily news and information package to keep industry members up to date.