Figures released by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics for the 2010 incoming Tourism sector show an impressive increase in the number of incoming tourists to Israel, making it a record year with a total of 3.45 Million tourists, a 26% annual growth compared to 2009.
A similar trend was reflected in the Australian market, as the number of Australians who chose Israel as their holiday destination increased by 32% compared to last year. This makes Australia the third largest market for Israel from the Asia-Pacific region (following India & Korea).
With its holy sites and Mediterranean beaches, Israel has long been a tourist magnet. The Tourism Ministry said that the growth trend has been felt in nearly every month since October 2009. According to the data, 66% of tourists arriving in Israel stated that the purpose of their trip was for a pilgrimage, recreational, or an excursion, 17% were in Israel to visit friends and relatives, and 15% were in Israel for business purposes.
Israel positions itself as the holy land with Jerusalem at its centre, as tourists from around the world flock to the holy sites. The country abounds in archaeological and historical sites, and offers a wealth and diversity of culture and landscapes.
Surveys carried out by the ministry in the past year reveal that Jerusalem is the most touristic city, with over 76% of tourists visiting. Tel Aviv came in second with 54%. The cities that follow in the rankings are: The Dead Sea (49%), Tiberias (42%) and Nazareth (39%).
Although there is an optimistic outlook, there are some challenges ahead, the major one being the effects of the regional turmoils: Many tourists travelling to the region combine Egypt and Israel due to the proximity of crossing from the Sinai to Israel.
Therefore, day trips to Israel from Egypt have been hardest hit. Last year, some 400,000 day trippers flew to Israel from the Sinai beach resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. This segment has suddenly dried up, because Sharm el-Sheikh hotels are mostly empty now.
Their absence is offset somewhat by cruise ships making more frequent and longer stops off Israel’s coast instead of anchoring in Egypt, officials say.
However, the vital tourism industry has been surprisingly resilient in the face of regional turmoil that has dried up visits to neighbouring Arab countries, tourism officials say. In contrast to Egypt and Jordan, the number of tourists visiting Israel appears to be holding steady, according to tourism experts. In addition, Tour operator bookings indicate a good picture for 2011.
The rising tourism numbers in 2010 (half a million more tourists compared to 2009) and the ministry’s target to draw four million tourists in 2012 and five million in 2015, highlights the current shortage in hotel rooms around the country. It also necessitates an additional 18,000 hotel rooms, especially in areas of high demand such as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the Lake Kinneret area. In order to match the growing demand, The Ministry of tourism is actively encouraging investments in new hotels through various support channels