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Some 1.7 million tourists visited Israel between January and July this year, up 41 percent compared to the same period last year, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported Thursday.
The Tourism Ministry announced earlier this week that 2008 would be, as anticipated, a record year in the number of tourists visiting Israel.
A growth of 22% was reported in July, compared to July 2007, with 260,000 tourists traveling to Israel; up 75% compared to the same month in 2006.
These numbers reaffirm the ministry's prediction that 2.8 million tourists will visit Israel during 2008. The record year for tourism so far was 2000, when 2.6 million tourists visited the country.
According to the statistics bureau, there has been a growth of 25% so far in the number of tourists arriving by plane since the beginning of 2008. The statistics bureau reported that 1.5 million entrants to the country were tourists, 31% more than during the parallel period in 2007. Some 240,000 of these were one-day visitors, three times more than last year.
As part of the Tourism Ministry's ongoing preparations for the record number of tourists, bus drivers will be trained in customer service, as will other professionals who deal with tourists.
Simultaneously, the Israel Airports Authority has published its monthly report for July 2008. During the past month, 1,198,824 international passengers entered and left the country on 8,291 international flights, a growth of 8% and 8.7%, respectively, compared to July 2007.
In addition, 31,230 passengers took domestic flights during July, down 2.7% compared to July of last year.
Nonetheless, the Airports Authority said July 2008 constituted the busiest month of aerial activity in the country's history, even though Israeli airline companies noted a decrease of 1% in their activity during July, transporting 494,876 passengers - 41% of all passengers during that month.
Three airline companies said they had the greatest activity during July compared to the same month last year: Delta Airlines, Turkish Sky Airlines and Sun D'or, a subsidiary of El Al.
Antalya, Turkey, was the most popular destination, with 112,565 passengers flying there last month - a 16.6% growth. Turkey was the country with the highest volume of travelers - 182,978 passengers from Israel, constituting 15.2% of the entire passenger flow.
A 25.7% growth was reported in the number of passengers flying to Spain in July, and a 48.3% growth in the number of passengers to Belgium.