Photo Credit: Andrew McIntire/TPS
The Tower of David is ancient citadel located near the Jaffa Gate entrance to western edge of the Old City of Jerusalem and a popular spot for tourists and locals. Jerusalem, Jul 26, 2016.

Some 54 percent of tourists said that their views on Israel changed for the better after visiting the country, and 93 percent ranked their experience as good to excellent, according to the Israeli Ministry of Tourism’s 2018 Inbound Tourism Annual Report published Sunday.

A comprehensive survey carried out among some 15,000 tourists showed that Jerusalem was the most visited city with 77.5 percent of all tourists, followed by Tel Aviv with 67.4 percent, the Dead Sea with 48 percent and Tiberius with 36.2.

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A vast majority of 93 percent of tourists ranked their visit as “good” to “excellent.”

Revenue from incoming tourism in 2018 is estimated at NIS 20.88 billion (approx. $5.8 billion), with the average expenditure per tourist in Israel estimated at $1,402 per stay, compared with $1421 the previous year.

These costs included $657 spent on accommodation, $236 on transportation and tours, $155 on shopping and $207 on food and beverages.

The most visited sites in Israel in 2018 are located in Jerusalem: the Western Wall with 71.6 percent, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher with 52.2 percent. Some 50 percent of tourists visited Old Jaffa, and 47 percent visited the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem’s Old City. Some 27 percent visited Masada, 26.6 were at Capernaum and 25.3 percent visited Caesarea.

A bit over 20 percent of the tourists in 2018 were aged 24 and under, and 36 percent were between the ages 25-44. The Taglit-Birthright program is probably responsible for a large number of tourists in this age range. About 20 percent of the tourists were between the ages of 45-54 and 24 percent were aged 55 and above.

More than half, 55 percent, of the tourists visiting Israel in 2018 were Christian, just over a quarter were Jewish, and approximately 2.4 percent were Muslims.

The best-maintained sites in Israel according to the survey were the Tel Aviv port, Masada and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.

2018 was a record year for incoming tourism to Israel, with more than four million tourists.

Tourism Ministry Director-General Amir Halevi noted that the increase in incoming tourism in 2018 is continuing into 2019.

Approximately 365,000 tourist entries were recorded in June 2019, 17.7 percent more than June 2018 and 20.5 percent more than June 2017. In the period January – June 2019, 2.265 million tourist entries were recorded, as opposed to 2.063 million in the same period last year, an increase of 9.8 percent. Revenue from incoming tourism in June stood at NIS 1.9 million and, since the beginning of the year, at NIS 11.7 million.

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