Israel still proving to be a tourist hotspot

Despite the economic problems ravaging almost all corners of the globe, it was interesting to see that the number of tourists visiting Israel is only very slightly down on last year’s numbers. Figures released by the Israeli Tourism Ministry last week show that some 252,000 tourists visited Israel in July, which is only 4% down from the same period last year.

July 2008 saw some 262,000 tourists in Israel, while July 2007 saw only 214,000. The very small drop compared to last year is quite remarkable, considering the tightening of belts that has been experienced throughout most industries. We know there are many amazing things to see and do in Israel, and it looks like they’re proving quite compelling reasons to visit…

Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov is even preparing for an expected rise in tourists in the coming months and is looking to build another 2500 hotel rooms across the country over the next three years, as well as ease restrictions on building hotels. The Ministry’s goal is actually five million tourists by 2015, which, when you look at last year’s record breaking numbers, doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

In addition to increasing the number of hotel rooms, the Tourism Ministry is working on expanding relations with the existing countries that fly to Israel as well as reaching out to those countries that don’t. This is seen as an important factor in increasing the numbers of tourists to Israel.

Last week’s announcement that Finnish airline Aurinkomatkat is to resume its flights to Eilat after a nine year hiatus is seen as an example of the ministry’s work behind the scenes. This coming winter (between October-April there will be two weekly flights to Eilat), expect to see a lot more Finns in Eilat.

And you might be surprised, but Scandinavia is actually a big player in Israel’s tourism statistics, with some 30,000 tourists (including 9000 from Finland, 8000 from Sweden and 6000 from Norway) visiting Israel in the first six months of 2009, an increase of 7% over last year. I know a lot of Israelis will be happy to know that the numbers of blond Scandinavians in skimpy swimsuits visiting Israel is on the rise…

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