The Israeli Ministry of Tourism said that tourism earned the economy NIS 40 billion ($11.5 billion) in 2013
Definition / Scope
Israel is one of the world’s popular holiday destinations. It boasts of a number of religious sites, cultural events, historical places and leisure attractions. It offers ancient archaeological sites, heritage tours, ecotourism and many beach resorts. It is also a culinary, spa and medical tourism destination.
Israel is an attractive tourist destination because of its religious culture and fascinating history. It offers incredible diversity within a very small country. Israel combines different cultures and religions, diverse landscapes, contrasting cities (Jerusalem, Tel Aviv), and is a melting pot of Middle Eastern, North African and European culture producing a rich and varied travel experience.
The Israeli Ministry of Tourism said that tourism earned the economy NIS 40 billion ($11.5 billion) in 2013, an 8% drop from 2012. Inbound tourism earned $5 billion (including Israeli airlines’ income). In 2013, tourism contributed 2.2% of the country’s GDP.
The World Travel and Tourism Council said that it expects GDP growth for tourism in Israel to average 5.0% per annum over the years 2010-2020. The WTTC expects tourism contribution to GDP to increase from 6.4% (US$12.0 billion) in 2010 to 7.2% ($22.1 billion) by 2020.
100,000 people were employed by the tourism industry in 2013, about two-thirds of them working in hotels. The total number of people employed as a result of tourism is estimated at 195,000. This constitutes 6% of all people employed in the Israeli economy.
Top Market Opportunities
Advantages to the Jewish State
Tourism is a major export industry, its economic importance lies in its contribution to the balance of payments, but it is also a magnet for investments. The tourism industry stimulates regional development and enables population dispersal. Tourism is also a means of propagating favorable information about Israel. Tourists who come to Israel gain a better understanding of the positions taken by the country on various issues, difficulties faced by it, and its many accomplishments.
Tourism is a contributor to peace and forms a link to Diaspora Jewry. Visits by Jews reinforce their bonds with Israel. Jewish visitors are often attracted to the country and are motivated to perform aliya – immigration to Israel.
Feedback about the Israeli experience
According to feedback collected by the Tourism Ministry, a majority of tourists were very satisfied with their visit to Israel (they gave it a score of 4.3 out of maximum of 5). They appreciated the improvements in the public’s treatment of tourists, in enhanced recreational and nightlife activities and in better accommodation facilities compared to 2012.
They gave lower scores to tax-free stores (a score of 3.3), taxis (a score of 3.2), wheelchair accessibility in tourist sites (a score of 3.2) and value for money (a score of 3).
- Israel has the major advantage of being the location of numerous holy sites for the world’s major monotheistic religions. Israel invests a lot of efforts in religious tourism, and many new projects are being planned and implemented in this area
- Another major contributor to tourism growth is the expanding economy. Business travelers represent a major segment in in-bound tourism, and the ever increasing demands of various industry sectors lead to greater numbers of visiting senior company personnel.
- A major growth factor for the Israeli tourism industry is the emergence of newer markets. To increase the number of visitors, Israel has signed various co-operation agreements with more than 30 emerging countries. These have yielded positive results. There has been a major increase in the numbers of Russian tourists to Israel since 2005. There are also increasing numbers of South Americans, Central Europeans, and visitors from the Far East.
- Israel has a fascinating concentration of religious, cultural, natural and historic attractions. It ranks among the region’s most developed destinations. It offers modern infrastructure facilities and provides a large variety of services and facilities.
- The security situation in Israel has been relatively stable for the past few years, but tourists are still apprehensive about the security situation and possible political violence. Israel spends over $55 million every year to promote itself as an attractive and unique tourist destination. This is a slow process that will take time to fructify.
- Israel’s has a reputation as a comparatively high cost tourist destination compared to other Mediterranean countries. Countries like Turkey, Morocco or Tunisia are perceived as being cheaper destinations to visit. Of course, Israel’s excellent services, infrastructure, gourmet food and beautiful sites mean good value for money.
- There are some bottlenecks to deal with, such as the number of flights to Israel and the number of hotel rooms available. Building restrictions in some cities like Tel Aviv have slowed growth in the number of hotels and rooms. Real estate prices are also increasing in many areas.
- The biggest challenges faced by Israel are the unpredictable political developments and violence in the Middle East and North Africa, which could impair tourism development in the entire region.
Other Key Market Trends
Efforts by the Israeli government to encourage tourism
The Ministry of Tourism operates in Israel and abroad. The Tourism Marketing Department identifies new markets and market sectors. It fosters relations with Jewish and Christian organizations, airlines, travel agents, and other agencies active in the field. The Tourism Promotion Department handles information activities. These involve advertising, publicity, and public relations to encourage tourism to Israel. This is done by advertising in the trade press and mass media.
Some of the activities are:
- Developing physical infrastructure. This is done by providing accommodations (hotel rooms, youth hostels, etc.) and regional infrastructure (marinas, tourist attractions, promenades, and so forth).
- Developing the required manpower for tourism related professions. These include travel agents, tour guides, and escorts for overseas groups. These also include hotel workers like receptionists, cooks, waiters, and housekeeping and administrative personnel.
- Developing events and services for incoming tourists. It ensures the provision of services like accommodations at appropriate ratings, recommends stores and restaurants, provides authorized travel agents, and conducts various events
- Developing domestic tourism. The Ministry promotes domestic tourism by various sections of the population.
Market Size and Forecast
Here is some basic information about the tourism industry in Israel.
From where do they come?
The greatest number of tourists, 623,000 come from the United States. They constitute 18% of Israel’s inbound tourism. Russia is second with 603,000 tourists.
France is third with 315,000 tourists. Germany is fourth with 254,000 visitors, the United Kingdom is fifth with 217,000 visitors, Italy is sixth with 173,000 visitors, Ukraine is seventh with 134,000 visitors and Poland is eighth with 89,000 visitors.
Also, 71,000 tourists came from Canada, 57,000 from Holland and 53,000 from Spain.
Types of tourists who visit the Holy Land
Fifty-three percent of the tourists visiting Israel were Christians, half were Catholics, 28% were Jewish, and the remaining belonged to other religions or did not belong to any particular religion
Fifty-four percent of the arriving tourists came to Israel for the first time in 2013; 46% of them had already visited Israel before.
Twenty-two percent mentioned that their reason for visiting Israel was pilgrimage, 27% came for sightseeing and travel, and 9% came for a vacation. In all, 58% mentioned that the goal of their visit was tourism, 26% visited friends and relatives, and 8% came for businesses reasons and conferences.
Sixty-four percent of the visiting tourists stayed in hotel rooms, 25% stayed with friends and relatives, 4% in hostels for the youth and guesthouses for Christians, and 3% stayed in apartments owned by them or in rented apartments.
The most visited locations in Israel
Jerusalem was visited by a majority of the tourists. It was explored by 75% of the visiting tourists. Tel Aviv was next with 64%, then the Dead Sea (51%), the city of Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee (44%) and the Arab town of Nazareth (35%).
The sites most visited by tourists were the Western Wall (68%), then the Jewish Quarter (64%), the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (57%), Via Dolorosa (55%) and the Mount of Olives (53%).
How did they arrive?
Out of the 3.5 million visitors who came in 2013, 2.6 million traveled by air (73%). That meant a 4% increase over 2012. 381,000 tourists arrived via border crossings (11%). That meant a 6% drop from 2012. 578,000 (16%) visited for a day – a 9% drop, 257,000 of them came on cruise ships – a 2% increase over 2012.
Most Israelis work hard during the week. They enjoy taking leisure weekends at various hotels to relax and rejuvenate. In 2013 it became a fashion for families and couples to take mini vacations to Tel Aviv for weekends. It is located close by, and it is a vibrant city with varied activities for people of all ages.
It is expected that domestic tourism will post a CAGR of over 3%, and will reach 13.6 million trips by 2018. The Open Skies regulation is a potential threat to domestic tourism. If flights to Europe become cheaper, domestic tourism may reduce more travelers may prefer to travel overseas.