"We have decided to advance the issue of work visa approvals for Jordanian workers in Eilat out of a desire to strengthen the hotel industry," explained Tourism Minister Dr. Uzi Landau. "There is a serious shortfall in manpower in Eilat hotels that will only deepen as the summer peak season approaches.
"This crisis could significantly damage the Eilat tourism industry, harming the income and jobs of tens of thousands of families, primarily from the less affluent strata of society. The importance of the tourism industry is in its ability to create jobs that lead to reduced economic and social gaps.
"An approval of the proposal will provide an answer to the labor shortage and I am convinced that the process will even strengthen the peace between Israel and Jordan."
There are 12,000 hotel rooms in Eilat, and thousands of workers are required to cover positions in cleaning, dishwashing and room service. Several short-term solutions have been used to solve this problem of providing workers for the hotel industry in the resort.
As a result of a prior agreement signed between Israel and Jordan, there are currently up to 300 day workers from Jordan working in different areas in Eilat. This agreement has been working satisfactorily since the year 2000 with about 170 Jordanian workers crossing into Eilat and returning home at the end of the day.
The new proposal submitted by Tourism Minister Landau and Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar, seeks to allow up to 1,500 workers of Jordanian citizenship to work in the Eilat hotels in order to offer a stable and timely solution to the manpower shortage.
These workers, according to the proposal, would be day workers who return to Jordan at the end of the working day and would be employed in cleaning, dishwashing and room service in the Eilat hotel only.
This arrangement would also contribute to the relationship between Israel and Jordan and help Jordan deal with the high rate of unemployment in the south of the country.
Endeavors launched by government ministries and the hotel industry to encourage Israelis to work in these positions were not successful. The Tourism Ministry together with the Finance Ministry and representatives from the hotel industry launched unprecedented campaigns that offered Israelis favorable conditions such as scholarships, annual bonuses, housing benefits, day care etc. However, these did not result in recruiting Israeli workers into the Eilat tourism industry.
Eilat's hoteliers sent a letter to the tourism minister, noting that about 90% of the available workforce in the city is employed in the tourism industry.
"It's clear to everyone that a crisis in Eilat's hotel industry will lead to the city's economic collapse," they wrote. "It's time for our policy makers to realize that if they fail to find a solution to the manpower distress soon, huge budgets will be needed to repair the damages caused by the economic crisis the city will suffer."