The number of incoming tourists rose in October, the first month that has happened since the beginning of the year, the Tourism Ministry reported Thursday.
"The change in the negative trend since the beginning of the year can be attributed to the marketing and focus of Israel as the Holy Land with Jerusalem at its center and the marketing efforts to bring target communities to Israel," Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov said Thursday. "Our aim is to bring an additional 3 million tourists within three years."
During October, 330,000 tourists visited Israel, up 9 percent compared with the same month last year, which was a record year for incoming tourism.
From the beginning of the year through October, 2.3 million tourists visited Israel, down 12% from the 2.6 million tourists during the same period last year.
Meseznikov, who this week is accompanying President Shimon Peres during a visit to South America, said the October numbers were encouraging but not good enough. He wants overseas promotional efforts to place greater emphasis on Israel as a land of sacred faith.
Meseznikov intends to add more hotel rooms across different classes and remove bureaucratic obstacles.
"With the implementation of these efforts, the tourism industry, within three years, will be able to contribute more than $1 billion to the revenues of the government, while adding about 40,000 jobs in tourism, with a focus on peripheral areas," he said. "The success of the Tourism Ministry to overcome the impact of the economic crisis and the repercussions of Operation Cast Lead, together with the tourism industry as a whole, will help to achieve this aim."
Meseznikov on Thursday signed a tourism agreement with Brazil aimed at promoting and encouraging Brazilian and South American travel to Israel.
According to figures released by the Central Bureau of Statistics, the number of incoming tourists staying at a hotel for a minimum of one night rose by 6% in October compared with the same month last year.