Tourism is booming - in and out of Israel

  • Israel Tourism logo
2013 was a record year, breaking the 3-5 mil visitors’ barrier for the first time, and 2014 seems set to beat that hands down. Ben-Gurion Airport is and has been operating nonstop. Where do most of Israel’s tourists come from? What are the most popularly visited cities and sights? How has it become the tiny Jewel of the Mediterranean? How many people does the sector employ? What are the predictions going forward? What a great read…
by ANT KATZ | Sep 02, 2014

“We are pleased that a ceasefire has come into effect  and are happy to inform you that everyday life is returning to normal,” said Oren Drori, Senior Deputy Director General of Israel Tourism and head of the marketing administration for the Ministry this week.

The holiday season is in full swing and currently there are thousands of overseas tourists enjoying the attractions, weather and surroundings throughout Israel,” he said. “Groups and individuals arrive daily and they feel safe and enjoy themselves,” says Drori, whose Ministry polls tourists to rate the country’s performance and service levels.

Ben-Gurion Airport is open, he said, “and has been operating nonstop. The Israeli Airlines and foreign carriers have maintained their regular flight schedules to and from Israel.” 

Israel tourism - Tel Aviv's inviting beachfrontRIGHT: The #1 tourist destination is the Kotel (Western Wall) seen here at sunset on Shavuot

Tourism sites, museums, holy places, tourist attractions and night-life are all open and all operating, says Drori. “Outdoor festivals are taking place as are concerts by foreign performers.”

This is welcome news for the tiny Jewel of the Mediterranean. Tourism employed around 6 per cent of the population last year and tourist arrivals broke all records. “Despite Operation Pillar of Defence and the security situation in the region, tourists voted with their feet,” said then-Tourism Minister Uzi Landau last December. "The year 2013 is a record year for tourism and we are proud of that.”

And 2014 has been skyrocketing too... and is still expecting to set new records.

'We are here to help you'

“The directors of the Israel Government Tourism Offices will be happy to assist you,” said Drori last week. “To find the closest office in your area please check the site:”

Israel Tourism logoLEFT: 35 per cent of all tourists visit Nazareth


Drori also invited any questions prospective tourists may have to be forwarded to the Ministry of Tourism Information Office located at the Ben-Gurion Airport.

The office is opened 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, he said. Their telephone number:is 972-3-9754260.”

2013 broke the record-books

Riding on a high of a record of over 3,5 mil incoming visitors to Israel in 2013 (a 0.5 per cent increase over 2012), the Tourism Ministry told editors at a Diaspora media summit in Jerusalem in June that the ministry believed they could top 5 million in 2017.

Even more value was created by the fact that, when one-day visits were excluded, the figure for 2013 was 2,9 million – a 3 per cent increase on 2012 (and giving an average rise of 2,5 per cent a year in the five years from 2008).


Of the 3.5 million visitors in 2013, about 2.6 million arrived by air (73%) – a 4% increase. Some 381,000 tourists came in through border crossings (11%) – a 6% drop, 578,000 entries (16%) were made by one-day visitors – a 9% drop, and 257,000 of them arrived as part of a cruise – a 2% increase over 2012.

Where do tourists to Israel come from?

As always, most tourists arrived from the United States – about 623 000 Americans, who make up 18 per cent of Israel's incoming tourism (1 per cent up on 2012).


Jewish Women's Benevolent Society logo

ABOVE: Tel Aviv, the city that never sleeps

Russia came in second with 603 000 tourists (3 per cent up), followed by France with some 315 000 tourists (up 5 per cent). Germany came in fourth with 254 000 visitors, followed by the United Kingdom with 217 000, Italy with 173 000, Ukraine at 134 000 and Poland with 89 000. Some 71 000 tourists arrived from Canada, 57 000 came from Holland and 53 000 from Spain.

According to the Tourism Ministry, most tourists were highly satisfied with their visit (a score of 4,3 out of 5). Improvements were recorded in the public's attitude towards tourists, in recreational and nightlife activities and in accommodation facilities when compared to 2012.

A massive earner/employer

Tourism yielded the economy an estimated $11.5 billion in 2013. The industry employed 10 ,000 people, two thirds of them in hotels. The total number of employees as a result of the tourism activity is estimated at some 195 000 - about 6 per cent of all employees in the Israeli economy.


THE MOST VISITED CITY in Israel is Jerusalem, which was toured by 75 per cent of tourists. Tel Aviv came in second with 64 per cent, followed by the Dead Sea area (51 per cent), Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee (44 per cent) and Nazareth (35 per cent).

Israel tourism - NazerethRIGHT: Via Dolorosa is the fourth most-visited site by tourists. 55 per cent of all visitors went there in 2013

are led by the Western Wall (68 per cent), followed by the Jewish Quarter (64 per cent), the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (57 per cent), Via Dolorosa (55 per cent) and the Mount of Olives (53 per cent).


Fifty three per cent of tourists were Christian, about half of them Catholics; 28 per cent were Jewish and the rest were members of other religions or people with no religious affiliation.

Sixty four per cent of the tourists visited Israel for the first time in 2013;

Twenty two per cent defined the goal of their visit to Israel as a pilgrimage, 27 per cent arrived for sightseeing and travel and 9 per cent for a holiday.

In total 58 per cent defined the goal of their visit as touristic, 26 per cent arrived to see relatives and friends and 8 per cent came for businesses purposes and conferences.

Jewish Women's Benevolent Society logo - HOMELEFT: Tel Aviv’s inviting beaches are one of the main lures for tourists

Sixty four per cent of tourists stayed in hotels, 25 per cent with relatives/friends, 4 per cent in youth hostels and Christian guesthouses, and 3 per cent stayed in self-owned or rented apartments.

And Israelis are also on the move - much more so than in the past. They are a useful supplement to the domestic tourism market - and many more are both travelling and working out of country.

Israelis sure travelled a lot in 2013, with domestic tourism totalling 16,7 million stays (in all types of accommodation) – a 3 per cent increase from 2012.

As for flights abroad, Israelis recorded 4,7 million trips in 2013 (a whopping 9 per cent increase on 2012), 4,3 million of them by air (up 10 per cent), while trips through border crossings (to Jordan and Egypt) saw a 3 per cent drop.


December 2013 recorded 272 000 entries (a 14 per cent increase from December 2012), 241 000 of them were tourist entries (a 24 per cent increase from December 2012) – an all-time record.

Then-Tourism Minister Dr Uzi Landau said: "The year 2013 is a record year for tourism and we are proud of that. Despite Operation Pillar of Defence and the security situation in the region, tourists voted with their feet. 


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