Asaf Zamir takes charge as Israel’s new tourism minister; Yariv Levin bids an emotional adieu

The Ministry of Tourism held a Ministerial exchange ceremony last week to bid farewell to the outgoing Tourism Minister, Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, and welcome his successor Minister MK Asaf Zamir. 

 Minister Yariv Levin was appointed as Tourism Minister in 2015 and has made significant changes to the tourism landscape in Israel, which has yielded record-breaking results.  During his tenor, Minister Levin has overseen a considerable increase to the inbound tourism industry thanks to innovative marketing and promotional campaigns, incentives to increase air connectivity from the world to Israel, and by increasing overall marketing budgets.  Ministry of Tourism has also invested in Israel’s tourism infrastructure including the Ramon International Airport, Dead Sea Promenade, and allocated grants to encourage the establishment, expansion, and conversion of hotels in various cities across the country.  The most prominent of all is the number of international tourists arriving in Israel, which has increased from 3.1 million visitors in 2015 to 4.9 million in 2019, 58% growth.

When addressing the gathering, former Tourism Minister Lavin stated, “I say goodbye to the Ministry of Tourism today feeling great pain. Together we have made unprecedented breakthroughs through unimaginable investments, establishments of hotels, development of the digital field, and of course, the tremendous revolution we have made in the field of marketing that has brought Israel to a central place with unprecedented occupancy in hotels and hostels. I believe that the tourism industry is a sector with huge potential… there is no better way to understand a destination than through your own eyes while experiencing the special and historical sites of Israel.”

 Minister Zamir has taken on the role of Tourism Minister at an uneasy time for the tourism industry all over the world. “I dreamed of being the Minister of Tourism.  I will come to work to serve you and to get this industry back on track.  In spite of everything, I imagined and dreamed of, I am entering this industry at different times…  We need to rebuild the tourism industry, open the hotels as quickly as possible, the tourist attractions, and all the industries that support tourism – restaurants, cafes, and bars… as quickly as possible.  Encourage domestic tourism, open the sky, and minimize the damage so we can return to the growth of the tourism industry.  When we conclude this important mission, we will fulfill the tremendous potential of this country…  We have the ability to grow out of the crisis.” Minister Zamir said at the ceremony. 

Minister Zamir stated that he has asked Director General of Tourism, Mr. Amir Halevi, to remain in the office for the time being.  The Director-General of the Ministry of Tourism, Amir Halevi, said: “I would like to say thank you to the outgoing Minister, Knesset Member Yariv Levin – for the leadership, professionalism, courage, wisdom and joint leadership through which we were able to bring the tourism industry to breakthroughs and record-breaking numbers of tourists each year. Incoming Tourism Minister Assaf Zamir, the first challenge you will face is to bring back the tourism traffic – in domestic tourism and certainly in inbound tourism… I wish for you to have significant years leading this office and that you will be able to make your mark in this industry… I am sure that together we will be able to withstand the great challenges we face”.

Minister Zamir concluded his address by thanking his predecessor and encouraging the employees in the tourism industry.  “I would like to thank the outgoing Minister and all the office workers, with some of whom we have already met. There is an atmosphere in the office of genuine recruitment for the cause, genuine joy and I believe that there is no other way to overcome these times. Tourism is essential for the reconstruction and ignition of the Israeli economy.”

 The ceremony was attended by a few key members while it was broadcasted live on YouTube via GPO.

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