Photo Credit: Flash 90
El Al plane touches down at Ben Gurion Airport runway.

By Mara Vigevani

2018 was the best year ever for incoming tourism with 4 million people entering the country injecting NIS 24 billion into the economy, the Ministry of Tourism said in a press release on Wednesday. The figures were an increase of approximately 13% on the previous year and 38% on the year before that.

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“This historical record, of more than 4 million tourists in a year, is the realization of a decades-old dream of all those involved in the Israel tourism industry. Within two years, we have grown incoming tourism by 1.1 million, an increase of 38%, which is rare, even in international terms,” said Tourism Minister Yariv Levin. “ This is the result of a significant revolution in marketing Israel which I have led that includes a shift in marketing strategy, the opening of dozens of new routes with the support of the Tourism Ministry and creating unprecedented collaborations with the largest travel agents in the world. Today tourism makes a huge contribution to Israel’s economy and employment and the many tourists who come here serve as ambassadors of goodwill.”

According to a report published this month by Euromonitor International’s annual Top 100 City Destinations, Jerusalem was the fastest growing tourist destination in the world in 2018 and was also named between its four “cities to watch” along with Osaka, Porto, and Mumbai. According to the report, Israel’s capital saw a 38% increase in tourist arrivals. The report put the growth down to ‘relative stability and strong marketing push”.

The number of tourists visiting Israel has continued to soar , partially due also to grants from the ministry to encourage new direct routes to open from new destinations, a change in marketing strategy which places an emphasis on leisure and good weather year-round, the development of infrastructure and new aviation agreements and leveraging marketing opportunities such as the Giro d’Italia and the Eurovision.

This year, NIS 145 million was allocated to help entrepreneurs build 3,829 new rooms, representing an annual year on year growth of 49%.

In 2018 the Ministry of Tourism invested NIS 350 million in marketing Israel as a tourism destination around the world, including, among others, in the USA, Germany, Russia, Italy, England, China, Ukraine, Brazil, the Philippines, etc. This investment yielded an average increase of 13% in the number of tourists from those countries.

The largest number of tourist to Israel came from the United States (813,500), France (320,000), Russia (303,200), Germany 259,500, Britain about 200,000 and from China (about 100,000).

In 2018 has been opened new flight routes from Europe , Iceland , Miami , Shangai , first route of a foreign airline from South America and a new route from New Delhi.

The biggest increase in visitors from one country in 2017 was from China, with tourist arrivals up 46% to 105,000 visitors thanks to the launch of direct flights from Shanghai.

40% of tourists who arrived in Israel this year are returning tourists who have already visited Israel – proof that Israel is a desirable destination in the world. In 2018, 61% of all tourists were Christian, 22% were Jews, 12.1% were not affiliated, 1.8% were Muslim, 0.6% were Buddhists, 0.5% were Hindus, and 0.1% were Bahais and 1.7% others.

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