My visit to IMTM exhibition began with a desire to focus on Romania. Finally, I put four more countries on my dream list; The reasons: Japan is no longer too expensive, the Philippines are singing beautifully, the comic in the Czech Republic is excellent, Timisoara (Romania) is spectacular, and Batumi (Georgia) loves Israelis
Don’t be surprised if a war will begin between Japan and the Philippines. The noise made by representatives of the Philippines at the IMTM -International Tourism Exhibition held at the beginning of this month in Tel Aviv, has hampered the marketing efforts of Japan’s and the Czech Republic’s representatives.
The Filipinos probably want Israeli tourists in high numbers because they sent big talents to the exhibition. The world soprano Francis Anne Rivera-Virtudazo, and the talented musicians Merjohn Lagaya (violin) and Gerard Adriano Lao (organ).
Philippine Tourism Minister Wanda Tulfo-Teo and Philippine Ambassador to Israel Neal Imperial also came to visit and support the country’s representatives.
Mari Quiaoit of the Philippine Ministry of Tourism says that in 2016 there has been a 40% increase in the number of tourists from Israel, and that is why they invest heavily in the exhibition. The purpose of the delegates this year is of course to increase this number.
And indeed, it was impossible not to stop at the pulpit of the Philippines, and to admire Rivera’s singing and the talent of the musicians. Some Israeli visitors didn’t restrain themselves and dragged Rivera for a dance. Rivera didn’t get confused, responded willingly, and even urged visitors to visit her country.
Well, it worked for me. Before the exhibition, I had never thought of a trip to the Philippines. But now this country is on my wish list.
I didn’t dare to think about Japan either before the exhibition, but I was curious to know how its energetic representatives were dealing with their glamorous neighbors across. It was hard to overcome the sounds of Rivera’s voice, but the Japanese continued their work with typical diligence.
About 30,000 Israelis visited Japan last year. The mission of the Japanese representatives in the exhibition was to double that number in 2018. So yes, the Japanese also very much want the Israeli tourists.
Currently, most of the incoming tourism to Japan consists of Chinese, South Koreans, and Taiwanese. The share of Israeli tourists in Japan is less than one percent.
So why do the Japanese want Israeli tourists?
“Most Israeli tourists come for a month or two, and so visit other cities,” explains Rie Matsumoto, Commercial Attaché at the Japanese embassy in Israel. “Furthermore, the relations between Israel and Japan are excellent.”
-“But Japan is expensive,” I insisted.
“Japan was expensive, but not today,” says Saori Kitamura, First Secretary at the Japanese embassy in Israel. “Though there is no direct flight between Israel and Japan which is our dream, there are many cheap hotels and cheap restaurants in Japan.”
“We Japanese enjoy cheap food and cheap clothes,” says Matsumoto. “But a lot of tourists want to go to expensive restaurants, so they say that Japan is expensive. If someone buys an apple for $ 10, he says the fruits in Japan are expensive, but it’s an exceptional kind of apple.
Kitamura emphasizes that more and more people in Japan speak English, making it easier to communicate with tourists. “Japan is clean, the people are nice, and you will feel very comfortable there,” she says.
– “If I’ll go with my children, what can interest them in Japan?”
“There are a lot of attractions for children,” Matsumoto replies. “There are special attractions for children, a lot of anime events – the Japanese comics- like Cosplay Festival and lots of tasty food.”
The Japanese have invested heavily in producing fancy brochures and pamphlets. One newsletter comes to deal with the first association that comes to mind when we think of Japan – the sushi. The creative Japanese team produced a newsletter entitled “Not only sushi” with a list of other Japanese dishes that you should try. A useful Hebrew-Japanese phrase was printed in the background.
Suddenly Matsumoto handed me a leaflet on industrial tourism. A visit to Kawasaki Factory seems very tempting. And why not visit Toyota Factory or a porcelain factory? I think the kids will like it, too. After all, who doesn’t like to see how things are made?
With such varied trips, I gave in. To my delight, a few minutes after the meeting with the Japanese delegates, I met A. and M. a couple who used to travel a lot, something like three or four times a year. They have already visited Japan and have done so at a reasonable price: $ 6,500 for 18 days, including flights.
And by the time I’ll take all the details from them, I inhaled the scent of the newly printed brochures deeply and went to the Czech stand, with still-fresh memories from our first couple trip to Prague. Isn’t Prague beautiful? But there seems to be a lot more to see in the Czech Republic.
If I thought the Japanese had invested in print productions, you wouldn’t believe what the Czechs had prepared. They produced beautiful comic books, which describe some attractions in the city of Pilsen. I immediately adopted two booklets: one detailing the life and works of the Czech architect Adolf Loos, and the other describing Jewish sites in the city.
So if you haven’t yet visited this beautiful city, you should know that Pilsen, is located 90 km from Prague, and considered the fourth largest city in the Czech Republic.
What can you see in Pilsen? A lot! In the city center, you’ll find many historic buildings, museums, galleries, restaurants and cafes.
Some of the “must” sites: the 13th century Bartholomew Cathedral in the center of the city, about 102 meters high, and the oldest synagogue – the second largest in Europe, after the synagogue in Budapest. And there is also the beer museum. After all, Pilsner Beer – a light lager beer – was born in Pilsen in 1842 and quickly captured the taste of beer lovers.
And if you’re already there, take the opportunity to take a tour of the Labyrinth of tunnels. Just below the museum, you’ll find the entrance to the underground maze, which is about 20 km long. This is a maze of basements, corridors, and wells dating back to the 14th century, where you can learn how ice and food were stored in the old days, and to sense life in the Middle Ages.
You can also stroll through the urban park – known as the Green Ring – and take a tour around Adolf Loos interiors: guided tour in apartments for preservation, designed by the world-famous architect.
Families with children can stroll through the zoo, the dinosaur park, the Science Museum, the Museum of Ghosts and Fairy Tales, and the Memorial Museum of General Patton.
One of the representatives at the Czech stand is Ales Vancura, sales manager of the Aquapalace Hotel Prague, who claims that the park is the most extensive water park in Central Europe.
Vancura emphasizes that the hotel is ideal for families, because the access to the park facilities is included in the accommodation rate. It turns out that many Israelis arrive at the hotel during August, but Vancura strongly recommends that they visit in April-May so that one can enjoy even lower prices.
Sample price: EUR 160 per night including breakfast.
The hotel offers a family package of 5 nights at a price of € 724 – € 144.8 per night – NIS 651 per night for the family of a couple with a child.
A couple with two children will pay a little more. On 24-28.2.2018, for example, you can get a family room for 189 € per night – about 850 NIS night.
Right after the Czech Republic, I visited Georgia’s pulpits. The excitement around one of the stands intrigued me, so I went to see. Instead of focusing on printed leaflets, Travel To Georgia decided to hold a lottery. The winner will receive $ 200 for a trip to Georgia with the company.
“Music and flyers are available every year,” says Michael Dorf, a company representative. “We focus on here and now, and give real money for a trip.”
The company, founded eight years ago, is owned by Emily Dorf, a young Israeli who fell in love with the country and decided to live there and introduce it to the Israelis. The company organizes vacations, field trips and workshops for business companies as well.
The drivers employed by the company are experienced drivers, who know the roads well, and the challenging driving style of the Georgians.
Emily’s brother, Michael, says: “In just two and a half hours you will arrive in a beautiful country, with open and friendly people, excellent food and very comfortable prices. A 5-star hotel can cost between $ 80 and $ 200 per night.”
The Dorf brothers and their crew came to the IMTM fair to attract more Israelis to the resort town of Batumi. “Last year about 90,000 Israelis visited Georgia,” he says. “We enjoy working in Georgia. The local government makes it very easy to conduct business. The Georgian government encourages investment and development, and this allows us to give travelers a lot of opportunities to accumulate experiences and pleasures.”
With such arguments, I had no choice but to participate in the lottery. Two days later I learned that I had even won.
I used to think that a trip to Romania is just a trip to Bucharest, but now I know I was wrong. One conversation with Lucia Solomon, of the Timisoara City hall, made me put Timisoara on my list of upcoming trips. Timisoara, the fourth largest city in Romania, was chosen as the “City of Culture 2012” by the European Union.
“We have great architecture: Baroque and Art Nouveau,” says Solomon. “This architectural abundance has earned our city the name ‘Little Vienna.’ We have palaces, museums, churches, three synagogues, galleries and beautiful gardens. There is also a kosher restaurant in the Jewish Quarter. But most importantly, there are direct flights with Wizz Air twice a week, so within three hours you arrive in Timisoara. ”
So I started to check. It turns out that you can also reach Timisoara from the airports of Budapest or Belgrade (about 2.5 hours drive) if you are already in the neighborhood.
Some facts worth knowing about Timisoara:
Timisoara was the second city in the world after New York to illuminate its streets with electricity.
The city was built on a swamp, so to cope with the shaky ground below the Metropolitan Cathedral, about 5000 oaks were put underneath it for support.
Johnny Weissmuller, the original Tarzan was born there.
Timisoara is the capital of the Banat region, full of castles, monasteries and magnificent natural sites such as swamps, parks and springs, and hot baths with mineral water. Some argue that the water in the Herculane Baths helps to rejuvenate the skin and heal various diseases.
Solomon says that even Franz Josef, the Austrian emperor, and his wife, Sisi, liked to immerse in the Herculane Baths. The emperor even called the place “the most beautiful resort on the continent.”
The owner of the Holy Land ZB Travel Agency, Dr. Nina Maria Diaconescu, an internist and gerontologist, can testify to the success of the place.
The agency offers different packages. In Aphrodite Hotel, for example, you will pay € 670 per person for a package holiday that includes a flight, five nights with half board and with a shuttle to the hotel and back to the airport on 17-22.4.2018.
At the Romanian stand, the image of Mrs. Peninah Zilberman, president of the Tarbut Sighet Foundation, stood out. Zilberman, former director of the Holocaust Institute in Toronto, set up the foundation to document the deportation of the Maramorish Region Jews in May 1944 to Auschwitz. “Sighed is the city where my mother was born, and also Elie Wiesel,” she says. “I came to visit there in 2013 and immediately decided to hold a conference of the descendants of the Jews of the region.”
And indeed, the energetic Zilberman managed to organize within a year a memorial conference attended by the descendants of the Jews of the Sighed-Marmorish region from all over the world. As part of the activities of the association that she established, she visits the schools in the district and explains where tens of thousands of Jews who lived there have disappeared. “Today there are barely 1,000 Jews in the area,” she says. “Many in Romania don’t know much about Judaism. We also take care of the second generation of Jews: it’s essential that we document and continue the stories of our parents.”
As someone who lives in Romania for much of the year, Zilberman recommends taking a family trip to Romania but avoid the regular tour. “You should go to the forests, ride horses, and experience the special places. You should plan at least eight days in Romania.”
So Batumi will be the first on my dream list, but what about you? Where are you going on vacation this year?