Economic Affairs Committee Chairman: Gov’t Didn’t Provide Fast Enough Response to Decline in Tourism

YERUSHALAYIM -
Chairman of the Economic Affairs Committee MK Michael Biton. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Addressing the crises in the Israeli tourism and aviation industries, Economic Affairs Committee Chair MK Michael Biton (Blue and White) said on Sunday that the government did not respond fast enough to the decline in both domestic and incoming tourism. He spoke during a committee meeting​ on amending aviation regulations dealing with various fees paid by companies operating within the industry.

Joel Feldschuh, Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), said the Authority cannot exist without collecting fees. The amendments, he said, are meant to reduce the fees for most activities in the industry. CAA is asking to begin collecting fees for a number of services that until now have been provided free of charge, while taking the situation of the aviation industry into account, Feldschuh said.

Shlomi Am-Shalom, Deputy CEO at El Al, said the airline believes the CAA is an “important and significant body for Israeli aviation,” but “the committee is discussing fees when the issue of compensation for the airline companies has yet to be settled.” According to Am-Shalom, “the assistance plan [for airlines], as was promised, has yet to be completed. Today the Government will vote on aid to the tourism industry, but we are apparently step-children. It would be correct to say that we have here a coffin for Israeli aviation, and we shouldn’t put more nails in it. There are no flights, there are cancellations, and the situation is getting worse every day.”

In response, MK Biton said, “I am of the opinion that the corona affects the Israeli economy, and the state was extremely generous towards salaried employees and self-employed individuals in past waves. Currently it appears that the main effect is on tourism, aviation and leisure businesses, and the government must act quickly and vigorously, and not kill entire industries.” The government, he said, “did not provide a fast enough response to the decline in both domestic and incoming tourism. In contrast to the incoming tourism industry, which the Tourism Minister feels responsible for, outgoing tourism has almost no ‘father’ in the government. Its ‘father’ should be the Finance Minister.”