Diaspora youngsters enjoy a Birthright Israel trip to the Jewish state..
(photo credit: Courtesy)
NEW YORK – The Birthright Israel program, which provides free trips to Israel for young Jews across the world, has contributed $1.1 billion to the economy since it begun in 2000, according to a study by the firm Ernst & Young.
The figures show that the gross contribution was made both directly and indirectly. The direct contribution of Birthright Israel to the economy, which consists of paying for hotels, tourism suppliers, flights and educational activities, amounts to $840 million. The indirect contribution, consisting of participants’ expenses, such as food, beverages, souvenirs, trip extensions and returning trips, amounts to $325m.
Ernst & Young’s report also showed that Birthright Israel participants make up 12% of the tourists visiting Israel from June to August and December to January, and that while the Israeli tourism sector is often affected by the security situation, Birthright participants growth remains steady, highlighting that most Birthright groups arrive in the off-season and therefore balance supply and demand.
In addition, Birthright Israel participants were found to be significant drivers of small businesses in Israel, with 47% of Birthright overnights taking place in peripheral areas in Israel, in locally owned accommodations, compared to only 28% of overnights for overall incoming tourism.
“This new report validates the success of our program and reinforces one of our main goals: to have participants return to Israel and foster relationships with its people throughout their lifetime,” Birthright Israel CEO Gidi Mark said.
Mark predicts that Birthright will “have an even greater impact on Israel in the near future, as participants decide to work at Israeli companies or start businesses of their own in Israel.”
The data from the study project an additional gross contribution from Birthright to the economy until 2020 estimated at $770m.
Since its founding 15 years ago, Birthright Israel has provided free trips to more than 500,000 Jews aged 18 to 26, with the goal of “strengthening Jewish identity, facilitating cultural understanding and fostering solidarity with Israel and its people.”