10/20/2010 05:18

Delegations from 26 of 33 OECD member states will take part in summit focused on sustainable, environmentally-friendly tourism.

Delegations from 26 of the 33 OECD member states began arriving on Tuesday evening for a OECD tourism conference in Jerusalem with a special focus on sustainable, environmentally- friendly tourism.

The Australians and South Koreans were the latest additions to the list of attendees, who will spend three intensive days discussing tourism initiatives at round-table brainstorming meetings.

Belgium, Sweden, Ireland, New Zealand, the UK, Iceland and Turkey are not attending, though Turkey is the only country to have announced a boycott of the conference because of its location in Jerusalem.

Delegations are also arriving from Estonia, India and Romania, which are not members of the OECD. In total, 29 countries have sent delegations.

“It’s going to be a very productive and useful conference for tourism professionals,” an OECD official said on Tuesday night.

The official insisted that politics would not negatively affect the conference.

“It’s about tourism, and that’s what we’re going to be talking about,” the official said.

Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov blamed media reports for politicizing statements he made about the OECD conference, claiming that he equated participation in it to recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. He denied that this was the case.

“It is my regret that there were attempts by different forces to mix up this professional conference with political considerations that are not related, especially given that such a conference can contribute greatly to anyone promoting tourism both internationally and individually,” Meseznikov said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Israel’s joining of the OECD organization [earlier this year] is very important to the building of a positive image of Israel,” he said. “This positive image will not only influence the tourists’ choice to visit Israel, but it is also liable to encourage foreign entrepreneurs to invest in Israel, including in tourism.”

The discussions will focus on tourism growth that is environmentally friendly, including creating green tourism jobs.

Attendees will also explore ways the tourism economy needs to change to adopt sustainable policies.

One of the goals of the round-table discussion about making hotels more green is to be able to have leading hoteliers announce, “Being a guest in my hotel is being respectful of the Earth where we are all guests,” a schedule of events reads.

The conference also hopes to encourage airlines to develop sound environmental policies.

Attendees will have the opportunity to visit the Jerusalem Bird Observatory, located near the Knesset.