FORT LAUDERDALE — Chad Martin, the Israel Ministry of Tourism’s director of the U.S. Northeast region, still arrived at Travel Weekly’s CruiseWorld event here to address travel advisors. And they responded with a long standing ovation.
“Shalom. Thank you so much for that warm welcome. I really needed that,” Martin said from the stage.
Martin originally had planned to talk about a new Israel destination specialist program. However, Hamas’ surprise attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7, and the ensuing conflict between Israel and Hamas, has put the country off-limits for leisure travel, and operators, cruise lines and airlines have canceled or rerouted their products for the foreseeable future. The destination specialist program talk would wait for another day.
Still, he told the audience, “tourism still matters.”
Martin told a story of being one of four Jewish students in a class of 420 at his high school in Youngstown, Ohio, and how a trip to Israel during his sophomore year enabled him to connect with Israelis and with his heritage.
“I took Israel with me everywhere I went. It’s one of the reasons why tourism still matters, even when you can’t do it,” Martin said.
Martin said it was difficult for him to talk about tourism on the heels of what happened on Oct. 7. “And yet, I keep thinking of that first trip, that connection, and why I’m here today because of that trip.”
Martin said the Israel Ministry of Tourism has altered its mission from tourism marketing to making hotel arrangements for evacuees whose homes are in harm’s way or are from “places they never want to go back to because of what happened on Oct. 7.”
He told travel advisors that they will play an important role in restarting tourism when that day comes.
“A new day will dawn,” Martin said. “We need you to remember to tell your clients how special Israel is and that it’s time to get going back.”
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