After several delays, a law change that will provide incentives for the construction of new hotels was approved by the government, and work on legislation will now proceed. The law’s institution had been delayed numerous times because of pressure from environmental and other groups against its passage.
Under the law, the government will provide a grant of up to 13 percent to new hotels for projects approved by a committee. The grant will be in addition to investments of up to 20 percent, including low-cost loans and financing, to be provided by the government. In areas outside the center of the country, that 20-percent financing could turn into a grant as well, meaning that the government will end up picking up a third of the cost of construction of hotels in areas of the country determined to be in need of a tourism boost.
The aim of the bill is to build more affordable hotel rooms in area outside the major tourist cities, said Tourism Minister Yariv Levin. “Expanding the number of affordable hotel rooms will enhance tourism, which is stymied by the availability of only expensive rooms. We are working toward reducing the cost of Israeli vacations by encouraging construction of affordable rooms. I believe that we will soon see positive results from this effort.”
The bill has in the past seen opposition by environmental groups concerned that hotels will be built next to rural areas and nature reserves. MKs representing those interests spoke out against the bill in a recent debate. MK Yael Paran-Cohen (Zionist Camp) said that the bill “would cause untold damage to Israeli beaches, where most of these hotels would be built. We will not stop fighting until this bill is completely dropped, and that in its place we are able to expand laws that protect the beaches.”
“This is one of the most dangerous laws that have ever been proposed in Israel,” said MK Dov Khanin (United Arab List). “It is a danger to democracy and to the environment. To say that a private business can benefit from being a part of national infrastructure is ridiculous. According to this bill, if one were to build a casino with a hotel on top of it, that would be ‘national infrastructure’ as well.”
In response, MK David Amsalem (Likud) said that the bill had been “a victim of a campaign of lies. All Levin wants to do is build hotels. We are not talking about destroying the coastline and beaches with hotel construction or wholesale construction of casinos, or any of the other accusations that have been made. We have had three meetings about this and these lies keep cropping up.”
Levin himself said that it sounded like some MKs didn’t want more tourism in Israel. “If there are no hotels, where will the tourists stay?” he asked the opponents of the bill. “Are you willing to host them yourselves?”