By DANIEL K. EISENBUD
Tourism Ministry: 10% increase in Christian tourism expected as result of visit; GPO setting up media HQ for int'l press, as police secure city against disruptions. Pope Francis
Workers sew Vatican flags at the Marom factory in Kfar Saba, ahead of the arrival of Pope Francis. Photo: REUTERS
Amid a flurry of activity to finalize security and media arrangements to accommodate Pope Francis and thousands of visitors, the Jerusalem Municipality announced Wednesday that it will raise 1,000 Vatican City, Israeli and Jerusalem flags throughout the capital.
Noting the historic import of the visit and the accompanying rise in tourism it will engender, the Tourism Ministry announced that it has invested approximately NIS 10 million in marketing initiatives and infrastructure projects.
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Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat noted the far-reaching importance of the pope’s visit to the capital this coming Sunday.
“This visit is of historic importance and paramount significance to Jerusalem, and as we complete the preparation of the city for the visit we will reveal the capital of Israel as a modern city that is open to all the world,” he said.
To that end, the ministry announced it has spent NIS 10 million on an international marketing campaign targeting the US, Brazil, Italy, Spain, Poland, France and Germany to attract the world’s Christian populations.
According to Tourism Minister Uzi Landau, the marketing campaign will include live streaming of the visit on the web and various social media platforms to reach out to the world’s 1.2 billion Christians.
“We welcome the pope as a visitor of the highest importance, the most important religious leader of Catholics around the world,” Landau said Wednesday. “We are greatly honored by his choice to visit Israel and will continue to welcome the faithful with open arms, as they choose to visit Israel in the footsteps of the pope.”
Part of the marketing promotion includes an online international competition in six languages sponsored by the ministry, in which participants have been asked to upload a 15-second video explaining why they want to visit the Holy Land.
The contestants were also asked to request that their friends “like” their respective videos. Since the website was launched in April, it has garnered over 34 million views around the world, the ministry said.
The winner of the competition, a 22-year-old Venezuelan named Adolfo Franco Picaza, will be flown to Israel as a guest of the ministry.
The ministry, which invests in the maintenance and conservation of Christian sites on an ongoing basis, has said it has also invested tens of millions of shekels in recent years to development and maintain the infrastructure of Christian sites.
Additionally, improvements and upgrading in the area of the Rachel 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.
The ministry estimates that as a result of the pope’s visit, there will be a 10 percent increase in the numbers of Christians visiting Israel this year.
Christian pilgrims presently account for roughly 60% of all incoming tourism.
Meanwhile, as the Government Press Office sets up a media headquarters to accommodate the international media converging on the capital to cover the event, police are finalizing security plans to ensure the visit is safe at all times.
“The pope’s security detail will be comprehensive and ensure his safety at all times,” a police spokesman said Wednesday.
“We will have an assortment of units and thousands of officers patrolling the city throughout his stay.”