Pope's Visit Boosts Holy Land Tourism

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JERUSALEM, Israel - The Israeli Tourism Ministry has launched a comprehensive marketing campaign to promote Christian tourism following last week's visit by Pope Benedict XVI.

The ministry hopes to encourage some of the 1.3 billion Catholics worldwide "to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the Pope's footsteps."

The marketing program includes a documentary produced from extensive coverage of the Pope's five-day visit to be used in conjunction with a range of public relations activities abroad.

The ministry launched a dedicated Web site to document the Pope's visit, which has been visited by more than 170,000 people from the U.S., Brazil, Poland, Italy, Spain, France and Germany.

"The visit of the Pope represents a strategic anchor for Christian tourism to Israel in the coming years and the Tourism Ministry will operate in all areas to realize the great potential in this type of tourism," Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov said.

Of the 3 million Christians who visited Israel in 2008, 1 million were Catholics.

Because of the global economic turndown and to a lesser extent, reaction to Israel's three-week military operation in the Gaza Strip in January, the ministry is hoping for an estimated 650,000 Catholic tourists in 2009, while the Pope's visit may bring an additional 250,000 pilgrims to Israel.

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