4.5 million tourists visited Israel in 2019 and set a new record of 12.1 million hotel overnight stays, 4.7% more than in 2018. The increase in the number of tourists in 2019 was over 10% with the increasing popularity of Airbnb, explaining why hotels did not grab a larger slice of the accommodation pie.
In contrast to the increase in the number of hotel overnight stays by foreign tourists for the fourth consecutive year, the number of hotel overnight stays by Israelis in 2019 remained unchanged at 13.7 million. Hotel overnight stays thus totaled 25.8 million, up 2.6%, compared with 2018, and 6.6%, compared with 2017. Foreign tourists accounted for 47% of the total. Most hotel overnight stays by tourists were in Jerusalem (34%), Tel Aviv (24%), or Tiberias and the area around Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee - 11%). Increasing numbers of Israelis took overseas trips - over nine million in 2019. Israelis who did vacation in Israel stayed mostly in Eilat (45%), the Dead Sea (11%), or Tiberias and the area around Lake Kinneret (8%).
The nationwide hotel room occupancy rate rose to 69.5%, up from 68% in 2018 and 66.6% in 2017. The highest hotel occupancy rate was in Tel Aviv - 76%, following by Eilat (73%), Jerusalem (72%), (Nazareth 72%), the Dead Sea (70%) Herzliya (69%), and Tiberias and the area around Lake Kinneret (68%). The average annual occupancy rate in Haifa was 65% and in Netanya - 59%. Israel had 55,431 hotel rooms in 2019, 800 more than in 2018.
Eilat, which was the focus of the struggle against the closing down of Sde Dov Airport, attracted a good deal of attention. Its mayor and hoteliers feared that the number of hotel stays in the city would decline steeply with the airport's closure. It turned out, however, that while Israelis may be flying a lot less (a 30% drop in flights), they are not abandoning Eilat; they are driving traveling there by car (terrible traffic jams in the city during peak seasons). Eilat has 11,000 hotel rooms, a number that has not changed in recent years (the number will now increase with the announcement of new hotel construction). Israelis accounted for most of the hotel overnight stays in Eilat in 2019: 6.2 million of the seven million total.
Despite the closing down of Sde Dov Airport on July 1, 2019, the occupancy rate in the city rose from 72.6% in 2018 to 73.2% in 2019. The negative impact of the airport's closing down was felt above all by the Israeli airlines: Arkia Airlines, which accounts for 70% of inland civil aviation activity, and Israir. The demand for flights on the Ben Gurion Airport-Ramon Airport route following the closure of Sde Dov Airport and the airport in Eilat declined with the lengthening of the time needed to reach Eilat from central Israel because of the preflight procedure at Ben Gurion Airport. Israir moved part of its activity to flights from Haifa to Eilat, but the figures show a 30% plunge in demand for flights to Eilat.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on January 26, 2020
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