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Commissioner Haim Gutin: Igniting Love for Israel

By Gad Nahshon

Haim Gutin, Israel's Commissioner of Tourism to North & South America

Haim Gutin, Israel's Commissioner of Tourism to North & South America

How can we ignite a love for Israel? How can we enrich Israel's positive images abroad? Haim Gutin, Israel's new Commissioner of Tourism in North and South America, devotes his professional experience and expertise in this field, to successfully challenging these questions. He contributes, non-stop, to the field of Israeli tourism. Prior to this job, Haim Gutin was deputy director-general for human resources and logistics in Israel's Ministry of Tourism in Jerusalem. It should be noted that Gutin served in this ministry around 30 years. He served as Tourism Consul in this country for many years (NY, Dallas) and specialized in North American tourism (Tourism Information Center, Jerusalem).

Gutin also specialized in marketing tourism with the positive effect of increasing the waves of tourism to Israel. Gutin said, "I would like to point out that, today, the images of Israel are positive ones! You can not find a negative image of Israel in the media. I remember when CNN and Fox had a tendency to view Israel as a negative country. That has disappeared. I think that, today, people understand the reality. The terror they see is a global problem and not just an Israeli one! The world is busy with the economic crisis or the future of the Arab Spring."

Of course, we are aware of the new terrorist attacks on Israel plus an external focus as well that led to the attack on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria.

Gutin remarked: "First, the political-military situation in the Middle East did not have an effect on tourism to Israel. There was a rise in tourism. In 2012, we had a record of 3.5 million tourists! (Half of Israel's total population!) We expect to have another record this year of 3.8 million tourists. The projected goal from the USA is one million tourists by 2015. Generally speaking, the main sources are the USA and Russia. The Ukraine sends tourists who are gentiles. Why Israel? They enjoy a good time with vibrant activities, and they also get added value for their money. Some tourists do not even need Israeli visas."

How does tourism contribute to the well-being of Israel? Gutin says, "First, it helps Israel's economy and business. For example, 100,000 tourists means employing more than 4,000 workers! Tourism pushes the pace of the economy, many private companies, commercial air force, and consumption. It is extremely important to the hotel business. Many Orthodox tourists tend not to go to hotels but to their families in Israel. Tourists from America spend an average of $1600. Second, tourism contributes to the love of Israel, its people, its landscape and so on. It contributes to Israel's positive image abroad. As to the Jewish tourists, visits increase their Jewish identity and connection to Israel. It is a very important link. Our representatives, located all over this US, Canada and other states, are promoting the importance of a visit to Israel. And try to use any stage to explain the value of a visit, including the economic and identity aspects. We try to improve the welcoming of tourists, for example, by providing 6,000 more new rooms in our hotels."

What is the picture of the American tourism to Israel? "This year we have 700,000 tourists from the USA. We also have 200,000 from South America, mainly from Mexico and Brazil. We are very active in the Jewish communities and organizations. The JNF helps us, as well as leaders, such as Malcolm Hoenlien of the Conference of Presidents or major Jewish organizations. Our tourism from the US and Canada is divided: 40% Jewish and 60% Gentiles. There is a large wave of Christian tourism! The Evangelicals have movements and churches, especially in the south, from the Bible Belt. Of the gentile tourism, 50% are Evangelicals and only 10% are Catholics. There are 80 million Evangelicals in the US."

The Evangelicals express their love for Israel. They visit their holy places. They declare their wish to defend Israel and its survival. They declare that the land belongs only to the Jews according to the old testament. Many of them distrust Muslims and believe that the Koran is anti-Jewish and that Arafat wanted to follow Hitler and murder the Israelis. They argue that an Israeli retreat to the 1967 borders will not bring peace. Even a Palestinian state will not bring peace. They remarked that 'remorse' means a mission to help Israel and the Jews because of years of anti-Semitism and persecution of Jews. They said that Israel is no longer alone and that the Bible Belt is Israel's Defense Belt.

They praised the Jews as the ones who created monotheism. One of their leaders wrote: "�Judaism is the highest value, idea. We are dealing with the roots of everything that has to do with the revelation of God to human kind." he Evangelical love for Israel was born after the Six Days War. It is a kind of messianism with a wish for a third Temple.

Apparently the meaning in ancient Greek of the term Evangelical is "good news" and that is certainly good news for tourism to Israel.

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