masada tourism 311.
(photo credit: Ahikam Seri/Bloomberg)
In light of the record number of tourists who arrived in Israel in 2010, Tourism
Minister Stas Meseznikov is optimistic the country will meet its target of a
million more foreign visitors annually by 2013, two years earlier than had been
Meseznikov, during an endof- year press conference in Tel Aviv on
Monday, said that if everything went well and there were no unpleasant
surprises, Israel could reach the 4 million mark next year.
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press conference, Meseznikov proudly enumerated 2010’s tourism figures, which
showed growth in incoming tourism, domestic tourism, return visits, state
revenue from the sector, jobs created, increased budgets and hotel construction
He also expressed pride in a personal record, being the first
tourism minister in a decade to remain in his post for two years.
year 2010 is a milestone for the Israeli tourism industry, a year in which both
the government and the economy in general understood that tourism is an economic
force of the first degree, one of the most important in the economy and one that
should be related to accordingly,” Meseznikov said.
Meseznikov the satisfaction level of tourists visiting Israel was also very
good, with the country as a whole scoring 4.3 out of 5 in service satisfaction
surveys conducted by the ministry.
Top scorers in the surveys were the
archeological sites (4.6); tour guides (4.4); and airport facilities, attitude
of the local population, security checks and accommodation facilities (4.3).
Lower scoring services included taxis (3.8); shops and the cleanliness in public
spaces (3.9). Value for money, VAT-free shopping and advertising received an
average rating of 4.0.
Meseznikov pointed out challenges facing the
industry and possible ways to succeed in spite of them. The top challenges
according to the minister are: the geo-political situation, the global economic
crisis and high shekel-to-dollar exchange rate, and the fact that Israel is
expensive compared to its neighbors and competitors.
The ministry’s hopes
to succeed despite the challenges by revolutionizing Israel’s marketing
Meseznikov said that Israel had no chance of beating out
neighbors like Cyprus, Turkey and Greece, or even Jordan and Egypt, when it came
to leisure tourism, but that Israel had to look to the unique advantages of its
rich history and its importance as a spiritual center, and leverage that as a
magnet for tourists, especially those from Christian
Sixty-nine percent of all incoming tourists in 2010 were
Christian, 23% were Jewish, and the remainder either from other religions or
with no religious affiliation.
Thirty-eight percent of the foreign
visitors defined the purpose of their trip as pilgrimage, 15% said it was for a
holiday and leisure and 13% for touring and sight-seeing. A total of 69% of
visitors defined the purpose of their trip as tourism.
The most visited
sites included the Western Wall (77%), the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem (73%),
the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (61%), the Via Dolorosa (60%) and the Mount of
“We will continue next year with focused and segmented
marketing activities in all the target countries, as well as emerging markets,”
Meseznikov said. Among those countries that the ministry plans to put an
emphasis on and where it sees the most potential for growth are China, India and
Meseznikov pledged that in the upcoming year his ministry would
do more to draw investors to build hotels, saying there was a desperate need for
20,000 new rooms to meet the rising demand. He also said that the new rooms
would have to provide lodging solutions for all budgets and in all parts of the
county and expressed a desire to see more low- and mid-range lodgings go up in
He said the ministry wanted more tourism attractions to go
up and complained that the Finance Ministry failed to allocate budgets for
Meseznikov spoke about the need for more
competition among airlines and expressed a desire to see a low-cost carrier
develop in Israel similar to those that operate in Europe and North
Meseznikov concluded by urging Prime Minister Binyamin and the
government to embrace the tourism sector and pay it its due
“This will be the year in which the government must decide its
policy toward tourism – either to leverage the momentum that we have created
with one of the most important national resources we have and push the industry
forward while placing it at the forefront of the national agenda in all aspects
(budget, land reform, infrastructure, etc) or to continue to relate to tourism
as another industry that will continue to exist on its own,” Meseznikov said.