Israeli tourism figures racing toward annual record, says ministry

Nearly 4 million visitors have arrived since the year’s start, with 389,000 in November alone; Jerusalem said to be leading global city in terms of visitor growth

Tourists listen to a tourguide on the lookout of the Mount of Olives overlooking the Old city of Jerusalem, on October 11, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Tourists listen to a tourguide on the lookout of the Mount of Olives overlooking the Old city of Jerusalem, on October 11, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

A growth in tourism over the past two years has continued unabated and if the trend keeps up, a new annual record of four million visitors could be set by the end of year, the Tourism Ministry said in a statement Wednesday.

Central Bureau of Statistics figure show that a total of 3.8 million tourist entries have been recorded in Israel during the period January – November 2018, a 14% increase over the same period in 2017.

Approximately 389,000 tourists entered the country in November 2018, 9% more than during the same period last year and 35% more than November 2016. Revenue from tourism in November exceeded NIS 2.1 billion ($560m), the ministry said.

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin predicted that a tourism high point will be set by the end of the year.

“The month of November continues the record-breaking momentum of incoming tourism to Israel and leads us towards unprecedented end of year statistics,” Levin said. “We have achieved the goals we set for ourselves and I believe we will reach 4 million tourists by the end of the year – an all-time record.”

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin speaks at the 15th annual Jerusalem Conference of the ‘Besheva’ group, on February 12, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Of those who visited the country last month, 327,000 tourist entries arrived by air and 61,500 passed through land crossings.

According to the ministry, Jerusalem is the leading city in the world in terms of visitor growth with an annual increase of nearly 40%, based on figures from the UK-based Euromonitor market research organization.

“This is also a direct result of our marketing activities,” the ministry said Thursday. “We will continue to prove that, with hard work and intensive marketing, it is possible to transform Israel into an attractive tourist destination and, as a result, an incredible agent for economic growth.”

On Monday Euromonitor published its annual “Top 100 City Destinations 2018” in which Jerusalem ranked 63rd in terms of visitor numbers, but showed a 36% growth over 2017, the biggest on the list.

“On the back of relative stability and a strong marketing push, arrivals grew 32% in 2017 and are expected to grow by 38% in 2018,” the report said. “After a slump between 2013 and 2015, arrivals are now back above 2012 figures.”

The report’s data analysis method, which differs from that of the CBS and Tourism Ministry and can count some entries more than once, predicted that by the end of 2018, some 4.8 million people will have visited Jerusalem.

Chinese tourists walk on the Canton Road, the one-stop-shop high street of high-end brands in Hong Kong, November 29, 2018. (Kin Cheung/AP)

Hong Kong, topped the list with an expected 29,827,000 visitors in 2018, followed by Bangkok with 23,688,000 visitors by the end of the year.

In December 2016 the Tourism Ministry said the industry had bounced back from a slump the previous year when the country was in the midst of a wave of terror attacks. With 287,900 visitors for the month, November 2016 saw a 38% increase over November 2015 and was a 12% increase over the previous all-time November high of 256,500, in 2013.

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