Future Trending and Trending Making the most of natural assets

Well, I was wrong–again. I didn’t think it was possible, or even desirable, for a nation’s economy to depend primarily on tourism.
But Israel is doing it, in spite of the political strife that continues to erupt violently there.
I just returned from a two-week “service tour.” The first part was a working vacation as a volunteer on an interdenominational Christian project in Nazareth.
Then we toured holy sites around Jerusalem, from our hotel base just outside the inner city and five minutes’ walk from the Wailing Wall.
Others who have visited Israel already know that the police and military are everywhere. They guard all strategic points, and close entrances to any spot where they expect problems.
They know when to expect them! As a result, tour groups are as safe in Israel as anywhere else.
As we have eco-tourism, agri-tourism, gamble-tourism, theme park tourism, etc., Israel has “religio-tourism” (a new word?). Every day, a great crush of mostly Christian groups from Italy, Romania, Norway, the U.S. and Canada, Japan, Austria, and Brazil swirled languages and luggage through our hotel lobby.
The hotel staff, bus drivers, and guides handled it all calmly and efficiently. The local population is used to it. People are accommodating and business-oriented, but not fawning or overly sales-soliciting.
Everything “works” for foreign guests in Israel. Roads and signage are good, information technology is easy to access, infrastructure is adequate. The tourist industry is well developed, with large efficient bus companies, skilled drivers, guides, and interpreters.
Arabs and Jews work together as needed for success.
The “natural resource” on which Israeli tourism is based is primarily the significant sites of Jesus Christ’s life and death. Most are marked by churches, with excavation and partial restoration of early structures and markers.
Since most groups are pilgrims (at least in part), they are generally better behaved than they might otherwise be. That reduces problems.
Israel’s second major economic project is agricultural: fruits, vegetables, flowers. That’s interesting, too, for a developed nation. Most of the product comes from kibbutzim, which are also visited by tourists.
Israel’s agriculture benefits from technical innovations for irrigation and pest control.
Among any learning from the trip are reflections about the primary economic drivers:
•Do we in Northwestern Ontario understand well enough what our base is for attracting tourism that really makes a sound economic contribution? For that, it would need to bring in lots of foreign exchange.
•Do our entertainment enterprises work well enough together to give visitors a seamless but diverse experience, and to grow and spread around the income?
•Do we have enough special features and variety to offer?
•How do we overcome the drawbacks of long-distance travel? Northwestern Ontario is at least twice the size of Israel!
•Why is Canadian agriculture in the doldrums while Israel’s is flourishing? It’s a global market. Israel’s agricultural broker is Britain. Could a broker system work for us?
Once again, I don’t have the answers. But some of my preconceptions have been corrected. And I have new “food for thought.”
Better thinking can lead to better actions. Those, in turn, will contribute to better futures.

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