Over 272,000 tourists visited Israel in December 2013, marking a 14 percent increase from the same period in 2012, and a 3% and 1% increase from December 2011 and 2010, respectively, the Central Bureau of Statistics announced Tuesday.
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Of these visitors, 241,000 stayed for more than one night, marking a 24% increase from December 2012, and 11% and 12% more than December 2011 and 2010, also a record for the month.
Jerusalem was the most visited city by a wide margin of 75%, Tel Aviv-Jaffa came in second with 64%, the Dead Sea came in third with 51%, Tiberias came in fourth with 44% and Nazareth came in fifth with 35%.
The most visited sites include the Western Wall with 68%, the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem with 64%, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher with 57%, the Via Dolorosa with 55% and the Mount of Olives with 53%.
Although numbers surged overall, December still registered a 14% decrease in day visitors across the Egypt-Israel border, as a result of the instability in Egypt.
Tourism Minister Uzi Landau lauded the December numbers saying that, despite Operation Pillar of Defense, “tourists voted with their feet.”
“The year 2013 is a record year for tourism and we are proud of that,” said Landau. “The Tourism Ministry will continue to invest in maintaining the numbers of tourists arriving in Israel by opening new markets and actively marketing the tourism product around the world. I wish all tourists a happy 2014.”
Of the total visitors, 211,000 entries came by air, 22% more than December 2012; 30,000 came through the border crossings, 33% more than December 2012; 22,000 came through the border with Jordan, marking a 27% increase and 7,800 came through Taba to Eilat, 50% more than in 2012.
Of the 31,000 recorded day visitors, there was a 29% decrease from last year.
Of these, 12,000 arrived on cruise ships, 47% less than the previous year, 16,000 arrived via land crossings, a 14% decrease from 2012 and about 2,500 came by air, 9% more than the previous year.
The satisfaction level of tourists visiting the country was rated “very good to excellent,” CBS reported, averaging 4.3 out of five stars, in a survey.