Jerusalem welcomes lucrative incentive tourism boom

While tourists are often attracted by Jerusalem's cultural and historical aspects, the city is becoming a hot spot for corporate trips.

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September 12, 2019 18:03
2 minute read.
Jerusalem welcomes lucrative incentive tourism boom

Tourists look at the Dome of the Rock, located in Jerusalem's Old City on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, June 21, 2018. (photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)

Driven by improved security and strong marketing efforts, Jerusalem has become one of the world’s fastest growing tourism destinations.

According to a report published by Euromonitor International, incoming international tourism to the Israeli capital soared by an unparalleled 38% in 2018, after increasing by 32% in 2017.

While many tourists come to see Jerusalem’s religious and historic sites while others look for its culinary scene, nightlife and nearby nature, the City of Gold is now emerging as an international destination for large corporate incentive trips – business travel that seeks to motivate and reward outstanding employees.

With average incentive trip spending reaching $4,000 per head, the global market in 2018 was estimated to be worth a lucrative $60 billion. Incentive travel increased by some 71% in 2018 compared with 2017.

Some 8,300 employees from two major American and Mexican companies will arrive in Jerusalem this week, the largest incentive trips welcomed by Israel to date.

The visit is being organized by Tel Aviv-based tour operator Eshet Incoming, together with leading American MICE agency Central Holidays, the Jerusalem Municipality, Jerusalem Development Authority and the Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Ministry.

The capital was selected to host the two trips after defeating other global city destinations in a competitive process, including Athens, in the final round of bidding.

Transamerica-owned World System Builder (WSB), a California-headquartered financial services marketing company, will bring almost 5,000 salespeople for six nights in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Mexican dietary supplement giant Omnilife will bring a further 3,300 employees and salespersons for a six-night stay in Jerusalem alone. Together, the groups will stay at 32 hotels, travel on 140 buses, and require 70,000 bottles of water.

The arrival of the groups is expected to contribute more than $20 million to the Israeli economy, excluding expenditure on air travel.

“Nations and cities are competing to host incentive trips today, with Israel facing twice the challenge because of its image as a security-sensitive country,” said incoming Eshet CEO Amnon Ben-David. “Incentive trips have been declining since the 2008 crisis until two years ago, when the industry started showing signs of significant recovery. Israel should do everything in its power to become part of this most profitable and fastest-growing segment of the tourism industry today.”

When catering for groups of such magnitude, Ben-David said, additional challenges include finding high-end hotel rooms for all the visitors, renting over 100 buses, employing dozens of English-, Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking tour guides, transporting thousands of pieces of luggage, and finding sufficiently large restaurants to feed everyone.

An estimated 50% of all incentive trips are arranged by American companies, and a further 20% by European businesses. Asian and South American companies make up most of the remaining market.

“Increasing the number of tourists visiting Jerusalem is one of the city’s stated goals,” said Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion. “Incentive trips play a major role in attracting tourism to Jerusalem and boosting its economy. We are unrelenting in our efforts to promote Jerusalem as a conference and tourism destination, including the construction of more hotel rooms to provide the best tourism experience.”


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