Some 1.6 million people visited Israel between January and July, according to figures released by the Tourism Ministry on Monday – an increase of 39 percent over the same period in 2009, and 10% more than in 2008, the country’s previous record year.

The ministry figures also showed record-breaking numbers for June, with 259,000 tourists visiting in that month, an increase of 24% over June 2009 and 8% over 2008.

According to Tourism Ministry estimates, income from incoming tourism (excluding air travel) reached about $1.55 billion in the first half of 2010. This figure is about 35% higher than the income generated in the first half of 2009 and similar to that from the same period in 2008.

“The increase in incoming tourism during the first half of this year should not be taken for granted. It is the result of massive investment in marketing activities around the world with significant budgets, especially against the background of the public diplomacy challenges that Israel is facing,” said Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov.

“Therefore, especially now, it is necessary to increase the ministry’s budget in order to continue and increase its activities, because the lack of a serious budget will take us backward and adversely impact continued growth, revenue and employment,” he went on.

“Significant government investment in this industry will lead to the creation of thousands of new jobs, most of them in the periphery, and revenue of hundreds of thousands of shekels for the economy,” added Meseznikov.

The ministry’s Web site has also registered an increase in the number of so-called “virtual tourists” entering the site. In the first half of 2010, more than 2.7 million users from over 220 countries entered the Web site – an increase of 30% over the same period last year and double the number for January- June 2008.

According to a ministry statement, the highest number of entries came from the United States, Russia, Germany, Italy, France and the UK.


Israel’s two biggest cities, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, received accolades earlier this month as they topped tourism magazine Travel and Leisure’s list of 10 best cities in Africa and the Middle East.

The ranking compiled by Travel and Leisure readers placed Jerusalem as the best city and put Tel Aviv in third place, with only the coastal South African city of Cape Town in between them.

Jerusalem, scoring 87.55, and Tel Aviv, scoring 83.38, beat out Marrakesh, Cairo, Petra, Dubai, Alexandria, Nairobi and Amman as the top cities in the region.

However, the Israeli cities failed to make it into the top 10 cities internationally, a list that was topped by Bangkok, Chiang Mai (Thailand) and Florence.

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