Gov’t to Compensate Negev Towns for Balloon Festival Cancellation

YERUSHALAYIM -
Hot-air balloons take off in the Negev. (Dror Garti/Flash 90)

Months after it was canceled, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office said Thursday that the government would cover all costs relating to the cancellation of a balloon festival in the Gaza border area in August. The debt of the local authorities of NIS 700,000 that remained unpaid was revealed Wednesday night in a report on Hadashot News.

Ironically – given the prevalence of terror balloon attacks in the region in recent months – the Western Negev Balloon Festival, usually held in August, has been in recent years a major draw for tourists to the area. This year, given the unrest in the area, the Homefront Command agency canceled the event. At the time, Hadashot News reported that the government had committed to cover the costs of the cancellation, which amounted to about NIS 700,000 – much of it to refund the cost of tickets purchased by about 4,000 people.

However, Hadashot News said Wednesday, that money had not yet been paid. In the wake of the report, Netanyahu’s office said Thursday that the government would cover the bill, and that “no local authority will have to pay anything for the cancellation.”

In a message to ticket buyers in August, the Shikma Besor tourism group, which sponsors the event, promised a refund. “Purchasers can choose to receive a full or partial refund, or to donate the money to help residents of the south. We feel terrible about the many long, hard hours we put into organizing this event that will now not take place. Our only purpose was to encourage tourism and business in the region, and to ensure that our guests had a good time.”