May figures showed positive signs for Israel’s hotel industry as it heads into
the peak summer months, according to a report released on Wednesday by the
Israel Hotel Association (IHA).
The report showed a 32 percent rise in
occupancies by foreign tourists compared to May of last year. The relatively
slight increase in nightly stays by Israelis (2%) means that the average rose by
a total 15%, translating to 1.9 million nightly stays over the course of a
A marked increase of 52%, was noted in Jerusalem hotels, where
335,000 people stayed last month, making up a third of all hotel stays in the
Sharp increases were experienced in Tel Aviv (33%), Eilat (27%),
the Dead Sea (25%), Nazareth (22%) and Kibbutz hostels (26%).
increases of between 8-15% were registered in Netanya, Haifa, Herzliya and
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, IHA directorgeneral
Shmuel Zuriel expressed satisfaction with the positive figures, but pointed out
that the numbers for hotel stays in 2010 were still not back to what they were
in 2008 before Operation Cast Lead and the global economic crisis.
far as tourist entries are concerned, with 255,000 entrances during May, we’re
just about on par, but the similarity in tourist entries does not reflect hotel
occupancy numbers,” said Zuriel.
“There we see that we are still 9% below
what we were in 2008.”
Zuriel added that there were a number of reasons
for the inconsistency between tourist entries and hotel stays, chief among them,
the euro meltdown that followed the dollar meltdown, and a noticable shift in
the make up of incoming visitors.
“We have to differentiate between day
visitors and tourists,” said Zuriel. “Day visitors are people who come to Israel
for a single day, without spending a night here.”
These are people who
visit Israel for a day as part of their vacations from Egypt and Jordan, or
passengers who arrive on cruises.
“In all the cases they visit for a few
hours, go to Jerusalem and maybe the Dead Sea and then return to their base the
same evening,” Zuriel noted. “Though they make up a formidable number of
entries, roughly 50,000 a month, we don’t count them as bona fide
Their contribution to the Israeli economy is very
Although the Tourism Ministry counts them in their monthly
reports on tourist entries, they are not included in the IHA’s
Zuriel also spoke about shifts in behavior patterns among
tourists that stay for longer than a day, pointing to a growing trend of
tourists that stay for prolonged periods, but don’t use hotel services either.
This includes foreign residents who apartments in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and
Netanya, but don’t live in Israel year round.
“For every person who owns
a vacation unit, there is a wide circle of friends and relatives who then use
the unit when on vacation,” said Zuriel. “These are people who used to book
hotel rooms, but no longer do because they have the opportunity to stay with
friends and relatives.”
This, according to Zuriel, equals the loss of
roughly 1,000 nightly stays at hotels per month.
Another group consists
of people who come to Israel to visit family and friends.
who make up about 30% of the tourist market, come to Israel knowing that they’ll
spend most of the time as house guests of family and friends,” said Zuriel,
noting that in the last decade this group has doubled in size.
hoteliers see as the biggest boom to the industry is the rate of local
Israel can boast one of the highest rates of local tourism hotel
occupancies in the world, with 12 million nightly stays by Israelis choosing to
spend their vacations in Israel every year.
Zuriel said that with May
numbers of local tourist nightly stays up by 2%, it would be possible
summer would see hotel overbooking as a major challenge for Israeli
Zuriel also said that it was as yet too early to determine
whether political developments, most significantly the Gaza flotilla
would influence the summer tourism activity, but said he considered the
to Israel’s image to be minor rather than critical.
“We have not recorded
mass cancellations of groups or individuals following the flotilla
none of the foreign tourism operators have left,” he said.
“The injury to
Israel’s image in the eye’s of the international community may make
Israel more of a challenge in the future, but we don’t see people
their prebooked vacations because of it.”