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Dana Shemesh of The Israel Ministry of Tourism: “Physical Distancing, Outdoor spaces”

Physical Distancing, Outdoor spaces — Travel professionals will continue to seek ways for travelers to maintain physical distance while still remaining engaged in a group atmosphere. Outdoor national parks, recreation, and al fresco dining will be preferred over indoor experiences. As part of my series about “developments in the travel industry over the next five years”, I […]

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Physical Distancing, Outdoor spaces — Travel professionals will continue to seek ways for travelers to maintain physical distance while still remaining engaged in a group atmosphere. Outdoor national parks, recreation, and al fresco dining will be preferred over indoor experiences.


As part of my series about “developments in the travel industry over the next five years”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dana Shemesh.

Dana Shemesh is the PR and Communications Director for the Israel Ministry of Tourism, Southern Region. Dana is originally from Tel Aviv — one of her favorite cities in the world. Before her foray into PR Dana was a journalist and held positions as a writer, producer, international news assignment desk editor, and documentary producer at CNN and The Associated Press. In her rare free time, she still enjoys “pitching” and write human interest and feature stories. Dana resides in Atlanta with her husband and two very active boys.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My career started in Journalism after graduating from University of California, Santa Cruz. I got an entry level job at CNN Headquarters in Atlanta where I worked in a playback area, organizing and playing VHS news videos for other staff members. I went on to continue my career there as a as a writer, producer, editor and desk assignment editor for some 12 years.

As a native of Israel who has traveled there throughout my life, I found myself constantly challenging the narrative of how Israel was portrayed in the media. When the opportunity presented itself, I was eager to take on this new role that allowed me to share the spirit of what make Israel one of the most special places in the world, while still keeping my toes in the water as a journalist.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

All those years as a full time journalist, I was immersed in the 24/7 news cycle, eating, sleeping and breathing the news. I think it took a toll on me. After I transitioned to the world of public relations, I became very selective about the news I choose to read and watch.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Our offices are located in a regular office building in Midtown Atlanta. When I started here, I was still immersed in 24/7 news cycle mode and felt I needed to be constantly surrounded by live cable news, as I had been for some 12 years. I had been accustomed to walking around with a security badge which would grant me access all over the building. When I came to this office building, my parking pass served as my badge which I would try to swipe to get access around the building. It took me awhile to recondition myself to a totally different atmosphere and pace.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”? Can you share a story about that? Since PR is such a vast field, I would encourage colleagues to align their interested within their roles and constantly look to enhance their interests. I am inspired by culinary, fashion, and wellness trends, so I try to incorporate those elements when promoting travel to Israel. I would also encourage people to constantly keep up with new and evolving methods of communication as our trade is constantly evolving.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

When I accepted the job as a PR Director, the job role was fairly loose. I had some bases to cover but could pretty much carve my own path, and I thank Israel Ministry of Tourism’s Commissioner for North America Eyal Carlin for giving me the encouragement, trust, and leeway to forge new paths and ways to promote Israel to a wider audience.

Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?

Before the pandemic hit, Israel was experiencing an all-time record high in tourism in 2019, welcoming some 4.5 million tourists the majority of them hailing from North America.

The tourism infrastructure could not meet all the demand for incoming tourists, and hotels were at capacity. Travel-focused Israeli startups have emerged during the pandemic, offering innovative solutions to help diffuse issues within the travel world. Hotels have also addressed the issue of extreme sanitation with instilling a “purple standard” which all hotels must adhere to which ensures the highest level of cleanliness.

Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation?

With the volume of tourism reaching such a high, travel trade resources were more focused on being reactive rather than being proactive. The slowdown of tourism allowed for travel trade related startups to emerge, perfect their products and really dig into applications that can make the travel experience go smoothly from start to finish.

How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?

As the needs of the modern traveler has evolved, so has the travel trade. These startups will change the way people think about booking and embarking on travel.

As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share 5 examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers will prefer to travel?

  1. Personalized travel — there’s no more ‘one size fits all’. Instead of large tour buses, tourists will be welcomed in smaller more personalized groups with shared personal interests.
  2. Cleanliness — New standards in sanitation and cleanliness with remain within the travel industry, even after the threat of COVID19 has waned.
  3. Physical Distancing, Outdoor spaces — Travel professionals will continue to seek ways for travelers to maintain physical distance while still remaining engaged in a group atmosphere. Outdoor national parks, recreation, and al fresco dining will be preferred over indoor experiences.
  4. Flexibility — The newly evolved traveler will be one who is more flexible should travel itineraries change, and be agile enough to go with the flow and make the best out of every situation.
  5. Pursuit of Wellness — travelers will look toward destinations and experiences that are high on aesthetics and incorporate some element of wellness beyond a high-end overpriced spa experience.

You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?

I am more of a city than a beach person, and I love roaming around sites with character and a deep history. A perfect vacation would involve sightseeing, learning about ancient civilizations, walking storied cobblestone streets and sampling amazing fresh international cuisine, and topping it off with some amazing cappuccino while taking in some people watching. I think I just described a visit to Jerusalem.

Can you share with our readers how have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

In some ways I feel like an emissary of sorts, getting to choose and vet journalists and influencers who could share their journey with their respective audience. One of the most gratifying experiences in this role is getting to experience Israel vicariously through their journeys, and to share their enthusiasm about how life changing their trip has been for them.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

This pandemic has brought much sorrow to many families struggling to make a living, which in turn triggers cases of domestic abuse against women and children. Since most of the children have been forced to learn from home, they are likely suffering in silence as there is no authority (as there would be in a school setting) to recognize these issues. If there was some way to help these children and women suffering in silence I would be all for it.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

LinkedIn: dana shemesh — PR and Communications Director, Southern Region — Israel Ministry of Tourism | LinkedIn

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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