5 Campgrounds OK’d

The Israeli Tourism Ministry approved granting 2.5 million shekels ($628,000) Jan. 11 to support efforts to establish five overnight campgrounds with an additional 1,432 beds: Park Savir in the Central Arava; Kibbutz Beit Haemek in the Western Galilee; Ein Zivan on the Golan Heights; Ahuzat Hazan at Har Gilo; and on the Spice Route in the Negev.

The Tourism Ministry is contributing about 20 percent of the 10,736,000 ($2.7 million) cost of the projects to promote budget travel.

“I meet not only Israelis, but also pilgrim groups who are looking at ways to reduce the cost of their visit to Israel, and there is insufficient supply of overnight camping lots in Israel,” Tourism Ministry Director-General Amir Halevi said. “The modern tourist stays in luxury hotels but also enjoys a few nights’ camping. Israel is a classic destination for camping, given the climate, and therefore the Tourism Ministry has given high priority to the work plan for establishing campgrounds with improved infrastructure.”

Travelers spent a record 365,000 nights in Israel Nature and Parks Authority campgrounds in 2015. A report from the authority shows that the most popular camping spots were in the south of the country for Israelis (with about 100,000 nights), as well as Hurshat Tal in the Galilee and beaches (about 70,000 nights each).

The authority improved campgrounds last year with hot showers, barbecue areas, family picnic tables, and the opportunity to rent tents, mattresses and other equipment.

The INPA allowed for RV parking in sites such as Eshkol Park, Yehudiya Parking Lot and Hurshat Tal and is making five additional lots suitable for camper parking.

Israel has about 60 overnight campgrounds, 22 of which the INPA operates.

Fines for Fake Stars

The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Jan. 6 approved Tourism Ministry regulations allowing fines of up to 9,000 shekels (about $2,260) for hotels that publish misleading and unofficial star ratings.

“We are putting an end to the widespread deception of consumers and stopping the unacceptable method of hotels awarding themselves star ratings that do not match the actual standard of the hotel,” Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said. “I call upon hotels in Israel to join the official process spearheaded by the Tourism Ministry and to publish the standards of their hotel and the star rating that they warrant in a transparent, open and professional manner.”

Israel has a voluntary system of hotel star ratings, and only about 25 hotels have registered, including the Yehuda, David Citadel, Mamilla, Jerusalem Gold and American Colony in Jerusalem, the Gilgal and Arbel Suites in Tel Aviv, and the Hod Hamidbar at the Dead Sea. An additional 16 hotels are being rated.

According to the requirements of the Tourism Ministry and in accordance with agreements made with the Hotels Association, hoteliers have pledged that at least 100 hotels will join the star system. If hotels don’t meet that goal, the Tourism Ministry could make the ratings process mandatory.