The Tourism Ministry offices in Jerusalem. A subsidiary of the ministry is scheduled to move to Tel Aviv..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Israel has fallen 19 spots in the World Economic Forum’s Global Travel and Tourism Report, from 53rd place in the 2013 report to 72nd place in 2015. Even among Middle East countries, it went from 3rd place to 7th, as high prices, strong currency and fears of security incidents pulled it down the list.
The rankings examine a litany of factors that can affect tourism experiences, such as cultural richness (Israel is 26th in number of World Heritage Sites), ease of access to information technology (Israel ranks 32nd), health, safety and security.
“Similar to other countries in the region, Israel’s tourism is affected by concerns about safety and security (99th), terrorism (130st) and instability from conflict,” the report said.
Another area of concern was prices; tourists feel the high cost of living as much as the locals who took to the streets four years ago over prices. The strong shekel does not help; despite record-low interest rates, the shekel remains relatively strong against a basket of currencies, meaning local goods are more expensive for foreigners who must convert their currency to shop.
The areas in which Israel ranked poorly, however, did not change dramatically from the 2013 report, meaning that its downgrading may have resulted in part from a change in methodology.
The Tourism Ministry responded to the report with a statement noting that it has been ramping up its marketing budget to promote Israel and working to plan new airline routes to increase ease of tourism.
“We are working and investing in new target audiences in niche markets, such as sports tourism, music and birding, and we are convinced that this will bring positive results in the near future,” the ministry said in a statement.
“The Tourism Ministry works in ongoing collaboration with other relevant government ministries; for example, with the Transportation Ministry to improve public transportation to enhance the tourist experience.”
Data released Sunday by the Central Bureau of Statistics showed that tourist entries into Israel in the first four months of the year were down 16 percent from the previous year, likely the lingering result of last summer’s 50-day war in Gaza and a drop-off in visitors from economically strapped Russia.