Tourist arrivals up 24% in Q1

The data showed a consistent rise in tourism each month, with March seeing 180,700 arrivals in the country, up from the 146,800 tourists that came in March 2005.

The number of foreign tourist arrivals reached 463,300 during the first quarter of 2006, showing an increase of 24 percent over the same period last year, the Tourism Ministry and the Central Bureau of Statistics said Sunday. The data showed a consistent rise in tourism each month, with March seeing 180,700 arrivals in the country, up from the 146,800 tourists that came in March 2005. At the same time, some 210,000 Israeli left the country to travel abroad in March, bringing the three month exit total to 632,000, some 8% higher than last year. Air travel was the preferred mode of transport for a majority of travelers, showing an 18% increase among tourists and 10% from locals over the three-month period. Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Municipality announced over the weekend that over half a million people visited Jerusalem over the Pessah and Easter holidays. The Western Wall remained the city's top tourist attraction during the week-long holiday, the city said. The occupancy rate at Jerusalem's hotels was above 80%, with a notable increase in foreign tourists, said Yonatan Harpaz, director-general of the Jerusalem Hotels Association. Separately, over 1.2 million people visited the 37 museums open to the public free of charge over the Pessah holiday. Bank Hapoalim, which financed the project for the second year running, said the most popular museum was the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv which saw approximately 500,000 people pass through its gates during the festival. Gan Guru, an Australian themed petting zoo, and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art had 50,000 visitors each, while the Israel Museum in Jerusalem had 30,877 visitors. Some 500,000 people visited various national parks participating the project over Pessah. Etgar Lefkovits contributed to this report.