The government has authorized NIS 530 million in assistance to Eilat for development of tourist attractions in the city. In addition to tourism, the money will go to developing new industries in the area, including aquatic agriculture, where plants are grown on water.
The money comes after what Eilat locals called the weakest summer tourism season in years. Although hotter than the center of the country, Eilat has traditionally been a popular vacation destination, especially in August – but hoteliers report an unprecedented number of hotel vacancies for the month.
The reasons for that are threefold, including the double blow of the closure of Sdeh Dov Airport in Tel Aviv and the Eilat airport, located near the hotel district. To fly to Eilat, vacationers now have to travel to Ben Gurion Airport, a less convenient departure point for many Tel Aviv area residents – and to get to their hotel, they now need to take a 30- to 40-minute taxi or bus ride. In addition, low-cost vacations to Cyprus, Greece, and other nearby destinations are taking a big chunk of Eilat’s tourist shekels, industry experts say.
The closure of the airports has had another unpleasant side effect which may also be scaring off tourists: Because flying to Eilat is more complicated, more people are opting to drive there, with the result that there is more traffic, and especially a major parking shortage. Residents and hoteliers point to the many formerly empty dirt fields that are now used for parking, and, according to many residents, it now takes twice as long to find parking as it did in the past.
Eilat needs help, and the government is happy to provide it, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said. “We moved ahead from nothingness to a city that is a glorious vision,” Netanyahu said. “We are now going to take a major step ahead and propel Eilat into the future. We have been talking about this for years, and I am now happy to say we are moving ahead. These are not just promises – the money we have approved will be available immediately.”