An all-time record 3.6 million tourists visited Israel in 2017, 25% more than in 2016. The Ministry of Tourism believes that incoming tourism contributed NIS 20 billion to the Israeli economy.
The country from which the largest number of tourists to Israel come is the US - over 700,000 tourists, 21% more than in 2016. Russia was in second place with 307,000 tourists, a 26% increase. The increase in tourism from Russia is attributable to the growth in routes and flights from Russia to Israel, some of which are run by low-cost airlines, and the exclusion of Turkey from the Russian tourist map in recent years.
The company with the third highest number of tourist to Israel in 2017 was France with 284,000 tourists, 8% more than in 2016, followed by Germany in fourth place with 202,000 tourists, a 34% rise over 2016, and the UK, which supplied 185,000 tourists to Israel, 10% more than in 2016.
Other important sources of incoming tourism included Ukraine with 137,000 tourists, China with 105,000 - a country emphasized by the Ministry of Tourism due to its enormous potential as a source of tourist, Italy (93,000), Poland (85,000), and Canada (75,000).
59% of the tourists who visited Israel this year came for the first time. 25% described the purpose of their visit as religious, meaning a pilgrimage, 23% as touring and hiking, and 10% as entertainment and enjoyment. 24% came to visit relatives and friends, and 11% for business and being an emissary. 30% of the tourists came on organized trips and 64% independently, while 6% purchased tourist packages.
63% of tourists to Israel stayed in hotels, which explains the increase in tourist overnights recently reported by "Globes," based on figures from the Israel Hotel Association. 21% of tourists stayed with relatives and friends, while 4% stayed in youth hostels, 7% in rented apartments, and 1% in Christian hostels.
The Ministry of Tourism's marketing budget this year was NIS 440 million, and included campaigns in Europe, the US, and the Far East, some in cooperation with airlines that started routes to Israel, such as Wizz Air.
The Ministry of Tourism did not confine its advertising to the pilgrimage market, as it did for many years; it also marketed other aspects of Israel, such as night life, culinary aspects, and sports. The marketing measures included special treatment for the three millionth tourist, who received exposure; the lifeguard shed in Tel Aviv that became a boutique hotel; a social networks campaign in China; hosting 3,000 opinion-makers from all over the world, and more.
The Ministry of Tourism also gave grants and incentives to airlines that introduced routes to new destinations with incoming tourism potential. €250,000 grants were given for new direct weekly routes landing at Ben Gurion Airport (up to three flights a week) from a destination from which there were previously no flights to Israel. 18 new flight routes to Ben Gurion Airport were begun this year from destinations in Europe, Miami, and Iceland by various airlines, including Wizz Air, Ryanair, LOT, and Wow. The grants for routes landing in Eilat were per ticket, and amounted to €45 per passenger landing at Ovda Airport. There are currently 50 weekly flights operating as part of the winter campaign, in which Eilat hotels are taking part.
The Ministry of Tourism estimates revenue from foreign tourism at NIS 20 billion. The number of hotel jobs averaged 40,000, 8.3% more than in 2016. Given the regulations governing the employment of foreign workers, most hotels said they had a shortage of personnel.
Spending per tourist in the first half of 2017 was $1,600 and $162 per day. The main elements of tourist spending were overnights ($617); transportation, tours, and sites ($245); food and beverages ($200); and shopping ($168).
78% of incoming tourists visited Jerusalem, followed by Tel Aviv-Jaffa (67%), Dead Sea (49%), Tiberias and the Galilee region (35%).
Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin said, "The all-time record number of tourists visiting Israel this year is no accident; it is the result of a clear policy. The actions taken by my ministry since I took up my position have brought Israel an unprecedented peak in incoming tourism. The number of tourists visiting Israel increased by 700,000, setting a new record for incoming tourism to Israel and adding NIS 20 billion to the economy."
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on December 27, 2017
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