Israel welcomed some four million tourists over the course of 2018, breaking a new record, the Tourism Ministry reported this week.
This year saw an increase in tourist arrivals of 13 percent compared to 2017, and 38% compared to 2016, while tourism revenue exceeded NIS 24 billion ($6.3 billion), according to the ministry.
The ministry said the increase is due in part to a NIS 350 million ($93 million) marketing campaign promoting Israel as a travel destination around the world, including, in the US, Germany, Russia, Italy, England, China, Ukraine, Brazil, and the Philippines. The investment yielded an average increase of 13% in the number of tourists from those countries, said the ministry.
It added that a NIS 145 million ($38.5 million) in grants to entrepreneurs to encourage accommodation options across the country also played a role and that almost 4,000 new rooms were built this year, representing annual year-on-year growth of 49%.
“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,” said Tourism Minister Yariv Levin in a statement.
Levin said the growth a “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 good will.”
The ministry said 40% of tourists who arrived in Israel this year are returning visitors, “proof that Israel is a desirable destination in the world.”
Some 61% of all tourists in Israel this year 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, the ministry indicated.
Earlier this month, UK-based market research firm EuroMonitor named Jerusalem as the fastest-growing tourism destination in the world, more than any other city globally.
The tourism ministry said that in recent years it has embarked on a number of new initiatives aimed at encouraging tourism growth including supporting new direct routes from world cities, changing its marketing strategy to focus on leisure and good weather year-round, collaborating with leading online travel agencies such as Expedia; and leveraging marketing opportunities such as the Giro d’Italia international cycling competition this past May, and the Eurovision international song contest, set to take place in Tel Aviv next year.