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Israel Tourism Ministry investing millions of dollars to welcome Pope Francis

By Mason White 5:04 PM May 19, 2014
Pope Francis 

By: Anav Silverman
(Scroll down for video) The Israeli government and its citizens are preparing for the historic visit of Pope Francis later this month, the Tazpit News Agency reported.

The Israel Ministry of Tourism is investing approximately 10 million shekels ($2.9 million) in marketing initiatives and infrastructure projects to prepare the country for the visit of Pope Francis.

The marketing investment is centered around the dedicated website for the Catholic Pilgrim (www.holyland-pilgrimage.org), including live streaming of the Pope’s visit and utilization of the most advanced online marketing tools, both on the web and on the various social media platforms.

The marketing targets countries known for Catholic pilgrimage, including the U.S., Brazil, Italy, Spain, Poland, Germany and France.

Last month, the Tourism Ministry ran an online Instagram promotion in advance of the Papal visit, where contestants from around the world were asked to upload a 15-second video on Instagram, sharing with the Tourism Ministry why they wanted to visit the Holy Land. The winning video was uploaded by Gustavo Aldolfo Franco Picaza from Venezuela, and he landed a free trip to Israel.

The 22-year-old Venezuelan with the winning Instagram message will visit Israel later this week, as a guest of the Israel Tourism Ministry.

Hundreds of journalists are expected to arrive from around the world to cover the event, and the Ministry of Tourism will be offering support and hosting services to them.

Israeli Tourism Minister Dr. Uzi Landau, stated that Israel will welcome the Pope with open arms. “We welcome the Pope as a visitor of the highest importance, the most important religious leader for Catholics around the world. We are greatly honored by his choice to visit Israel. We will continue to welcome the faithful with open arms, as they choose to visit Israel in the footsteps of the Pope.”

The Tourism Ministry, which invests in the maintenance and conservation of Christian sites on an ongoing basis, has invested tens of millions of shekels in recent years in the development and infrastructure of Christian sites, including the Yardenit baptism site on the River Jordan, the Sea of Galilee trail and promenade, Mount of Olives, Via Dolorosa, Ein Karem and pilgrimage routes in Jerusalem, Nazareth and more. Improvements and upgrading in the area of Rachel’s Crossing and at the Room of the Last Supper that had been planned for later in the year, have been carried out in advance of the Pope’s visit.

As a result of the visit to the Holy Land by Pope Francis, who is a popular and significant figure for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, the ministry estimates an increase of tens of thousands in the numbers of Christians visiting Israel. Christian tourism, which accounts for about 60% of all incoming tourism, is expected to increase by about 10% in 2014 as a result of the pope’s visit.