Israel welcomes over 2 million tourists in 2022 amid steady post-COVID recovery

Vacationing Israelis outpace foreign tourists in hotel stays as number of rooms increases sharply

People bathe in the Deas Sea near a resoirt in Ein Bokek, November 2022. (Yuriy Komarov via iStock by Getty Images)
People bathe in the Deas Sea near a resoirt in Ein Bokek, November 2022. (Yuriy Komarov via iStock by Getty Images)

Over 2 million tourists visited Israel between January and October and the number is expected to rise to about 2.5 million by the end of 2022, according to the Tourism Ministry.

Ministry figures last month showed some 2,078,000 tourist arrivals in Israel in the first 10 months of the year. Should these continue at the same rate in November and December, the ministry said it expects to record between 2.4 to 2.6 million arrivals by the end of the year.

These figures are a far cry from 2019’s figures when Israel welcomed some 4.5 million tourists, its strongest year on record, but the numbers show promising signs of recovery for inbound tourism, the ministry said (Hebrew link).

Israel only reopened its skies in March, lifting most COVID-related travel restrictions. International arrivals who are foreign nationals are required to carry health insurance policies with coverage for COVID-19 treatment as of this summer.

Hotel industry figures also point to signs of recovery. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), 19.3 million hotel stays were recorded between January and October this year compared to 21.8 million over the same period in 2019.

Overall, hotel occupancy so far this year is estimated at 61% compared to 70% in the first nine months of 2019. Of the 19.3 million hotel stays recorded by the CBS, 5.6 million (29%) have been by foreign tourists and over 13 million by Israelis, or domestic tourists. In 2019, the CBS recorded 10 million hotel night stays by foreigners and close to 12 million by locals. Industry observers believe that a greater number of Israelis vacationing in the country will remain a feature of the market even as foreign arrivals continue to grow.

Bedroom in Lighthouse Tel Aviv (courtesy Brown Hotels)

General occupancy rates have been over 65% every month since May, CBS figures show. The strongest recovery has been in southern Israel, where occupancy rates reached 68.8% occupancy in January-October, compared to 70.9% pre-pandemic. Hotels in Eilat and the Dead Sea region have both seen over 70% occupancy for the month of October, according to CBS.

Jerusalem area hotel occupancy reached 54.4% in January-October, while in Tel Aviv, occupancy rates were recorded at 60.7%, down from their peak of 74.5% in 2019.

To boost tourism recovery efforts and meet demand, Israel has been steadily working to grow and to diversify the number of hotel rooms. The Tourism Ministry believes there is a shortage of internationally rated luxury hotels, and also of modern, cheaper hotels at lower price points. Hotel ownership in Israel at present is largely confined to seven domestic groups — Atlas Hotels, Brown Hotels, Dan Hotels, Fattal Hotel Group, Isrotel, Prima Hotels, and Orchid Hotels — while a number of leading global hotel chains have limited presence that the Tourism Ministry would like to grow.

The new David Kempinski Hotel in Tel Aviv, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and open for business in April 2022 (Courtesy Kempinski)

Since December 2021, Israel’s Tourism Ministry has sought to incentivize growth in the number of hotels and hotel rooms, offering grants for investment in new hotels and substantial extensions to existing hotels. The ministry also wants to encourage overseas investment in the sector as a way of further diversifying the range of hotel options for visitors.

This year Tourism Ministry expects to complete the delivery of some 4,500 new hotel rooms, with another 4,000 plus scheduled for next year. These are substantial increases to some 57,000 existing hotel rooms across the country, with the largest numbers of rooms located in Jerusalem and Eilat. Twelve new hotels are due to open in 2023, adding to the 27 new hotels scheduled to start receiving guests in the coming months

In total, 51 hotels are in the planning pipeline as Israel hopes to more than double its pre-COVID tourist numbers, to 10 million visitors by 2030.

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