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2018 Sets Record for Tourism to Israel as More than 4 Million Visit

January 6, 2019 Special Feature

Jerusalem tourism information center. Illustrative. By Joshua Spurlock

It took Israel 69 years to reach 3 million tourists visiting in one year. It took just one year to reach 4 million tourists in a year. 2018 set a record for the number of tourists to visit Israel in one year, with more than 4.1 million arriving in the Holy Land. “This is the second consecutive record-breaking year in incoming tourism to Israel and this year we have crossed the threshold of 4 million tourists in a year,” Tourism Ministry Director-General Amir Halevi said in a Sunday press release from the Tourism Ministry. “…What was considered a fantasy a few years ago is today a reality: Israel is a preferred tourist destination among tourism destinations around the world.”

In 2017, around 3.6 million tourists visited Israel, which was itself a record at the time according to a prior press release from the Tourism Ministry. Sunday’s press release noted that it took 30 years—from 1948 to 1978—for Israel to finally have 1 million tourists in one year. 40 years later and the United States alone sent almost a million tourists to Israel, with 897,100 Americans visiting in 2018. France and Russia were next on the list with more than 300,000 visitors each.

The numbers are not just a source of pride; they are also a financial boon to Israel. Tourism revenue was around $5.8 billion in 2018 (or roughly NIS 22 billion). Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin noted in Sunday’s press release that tourism “makes a huge contribution to both Israel’s economy and its’ image.”

Said Levin, “We have broken incoming tourism records and this achievement is the direct result of intensive work that we are doing at the Tourism Ministry. This achievement is a result of a revolutionary change in marketing strategy; infrastructure development; opening direct routes from new destinations and creating collaborations with some of the largest travel agents in the world.”

2018 even saw a difference in the way Israel’s capital city of Jerusalem is viewed as a tourism destination. The Israeli Tourism Ministry press release noted that international market research firm EuroMonitor anointed Jerusalem as the fastest-growing tourism city in the world in 2018.

The numbers aren’t just the result of Israel being discovered by new tourists. 40% of the tourists to Israel in 2018 were returning visitors, which the Israeli press release called “proof that Israel is a desirable destination in the world.”

Not surprisingly for the Holy Land, 61% of all tourists in 2018 were Christian, while 22% were Jewish.

Tourism Ministry Director-General Halevi said that they are already “optimistic about 2019” as a new international airport in the south of Israel is set to open. Israeli publication Globes has reported that the Ramon Airport near Eilat is expected to be inaugurated later this month. It will initially be used for domestic flights, and eventually include international ones as well.

Said Halevi in the press release about the record-setting 2018 for tourism, “This is the result of hard and strenuous work in recent years, as part of a revolution in the way that Israel is marketed around the world as a tourist destination.”

(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, January 6, 2019)

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