Beach-goers look at explosions as the Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, over Tel Aviv, in July..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Despite an 18 percent increase in tourism during the first half of the year, tourism dipped 7% overall in 2014, due to a sharp decrease in visitors following the Gaza war.
According to the Tourism Ministry the 3.3 million tourists who visited Israel in 2014, contributed around NIS 41 billion to the economy and employed over 200,000 Israelis, or about 6% of the workforce.
The leading source countries for incoming tourism were the United States, Russia, France and Germany.
Fifty-six percent of incoming international tourists were Christian.
The papal visit in May 2014 brought thousands of tourists and pilgrims to Israel and following the trip many more traveled as a result, according to information from the ministry.
Additionally, about NIS 2.5 million was invested in infrastructure and marketing to leverage the pope’s stay and millions more in infrastructure projects and upgrades to the Christian sites in advance of the visit.
The pope’s arrival led to an 18% increase in tourism for the first half of 2014.
This momentum in the tourism industry, gained after the pope’s visit was not only halted but reversed, with the onset of Operation Protective Edge in July. Sharp decreases in incoming tourism were recorded from that month (about 30%), stabilizing to about a 20% decrease in the last months of 2014.
Despite the summer war, the Tourism Ministry remained optimistic about the tourism yield for 2015.
“Operation Protective Edge halted our momentum, but we can already see the light at the end of the tunnel, with recovery in the first half of 2015,” Tourism Ministry Director-General Amir Halevi said. The NIS 500m. assistance package assembled by the ministry for tourism businesses bolstered the industry, and restored our status as a growth engine that is streaming tens of billions of shekels into the economy.”
Halevi added that last year, the tourism ministry put their emphasis on digital marketing aimed at independent travelers. He anticipates that upcoming attractions such as the Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Galilee marathons and the operas at Masada and in Acre, will draw many visitors in 2015. The Ministry has recruited a number of international “tourism ambassadors,” whose goal is to spread word throughout the world of how good it is to visit Israel.