March hotel figures show Israel's tepid tourism recovery

In the first three months of 2016, hotels sold roughly 705,000 nights to tourists, which represents a meager 5% increase over the same period in 2015.

April 19, 2016 20:35
1 minute read.
eilat hotel

A hotel is seen against a backdrop of mountains in the Red Sea resort of Eilat [Illustrative]. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Tourism to Israel has not fully recovered from the precipitous drop that followed the 2014 summer war with Hamas, according to new figures released Tuesday by the Central Bureau of Statistics.

In the first three months of 2016, hotels sold roughly 705,000 nights to tourists, which represents a meager 5% increase over the same period in 2015 (674,000), but still about 29% lower than 2014’s 993,000.

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Hotel occupancy rates, which fell from 63% in March, 2014 to 55% in March, 2015, rebounded to 58% nationwide last month. The most dramatic drops from 2014 were in Jerusalem (72% to 49%) and Nazareth (58% to 36%). In Tel Aviv, the effect was far less pronounced, with rates dropping from 73% to 67%.

Part of the reason that the tourism numbers were more dramatic than the occupancy rates is that internal Israeli tourism helped fill the gap.

Internally, Israelis bought 917,000 hotel nights in the first three months of 2016, up 28% from the equivalent period in 2014.

Though hotel operators have raised concerns that they would lose business to online person-to-person room rental apps, such as Air BNB, the overall tourism numbers seem to reflect the same trends as the hotel stays.

According to a Central Bureau of Statistics report from earlier this month, overall tourism fell from 705,300 in the first three months of 2014, to 593,300 in the same period last year (a 16% drop), and only recovered to 596,500 this year (a 0.5% increase).

On possible explanation for the tourism decline is the continued violence in the region. A release from the Israel Hotel Association marked the graph of hotel stays with labels for 2012’s Operation Defensive Shield, 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, and most recently the “knife intifada,” marking the wave of terrorism that erupted in 2015.

Noaz Bar Nir, the head of the association, repeated his usual call for advertising Israel as a tourist destination abroad.

“We hope that the [Tourism] Ministry, which is responsible for marketing the country, will take effective additional steps, with the help of the best marketing budgets we’ve ever known, to increase incoming tourism with our main product: religion, culture and history,” he said.

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