City Hall to Invest $100M in Israeli Resort

Moscow will invest $100 million through a subsidiary to build a luxury resort hotel in Ein Bokek, on the southern shores of the Dead Sea, the Israel Tourism Ministry said last week.

The Moscow municipality will subsidize flights and accommodation packages at the resort for city residents. Moscow is considered one of the three richest cities in the world, with an annual municipal budget of about $50 billion, the statement said.

"Our activities to promote the construction of a luxury Russian hotel stem from a national and economic interest to take a more central position on the Russian tourist map and, at the same time, to increase the number of guest rooms available in Israel," Israeli Tourism Minister Ruhama Avraham-Balila said.

Israel aims to boost the number of tourists to the country to about 5 million by 2012, from 2.3 million last year. About 9 percent of the visitors last year were from Russia. Russia and Israel signed a visa-free travel agreement this year, effective from September 20, which is expected to increase the number of Russian tourists to 400,000 in 2009, the minister said.

The 240-room hotel, with two indoor swimming pools and a helipad, will be built by the Sun Dream Company, which is jointly owned by the Moscow municipality and the Intercons Corporation. Construction will begin within the next few months.

There are currently 4,000 rooms available in the Dead Sea area.