Israel is one of the most interesting tourist destinations. It is holy to the three greatest monotheistic religions in the world -- Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
Consequently, it has sites of great religious significance that are unique. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher for Christians, the Western Wall for Jews and Haram al Sharif for Muslims are all located in Jerusalem.
While much has been written about Israel as a tourist destination in terms of its historic sites, its scenery, its architecture and entertainment centers, less has been written about its importance to the local economy in terms of business tourism.
In 2011 Israel hosted approximately three and a half million tourists, the highest number of tourists ever to grace Israel's shores in a single year. Up to 2007, the number had amounted to two million.
The sharp rise in tourism started in 2001. During that year, incoming tourism reached 2.1 million, a rise of 24 percent compared to 1.7 million in 2006. The 3.5 million in 2011 meant a rise of 106% compared to five years ago. In the next five years, the number of tourists is expected to reach five million.
During the past five years, the number of incoming tourists has not only increased, but there has been a big change in where the visitors come from. Up to the first half the first decade of the 21st century, most of the tourists came from North America and Western Europe.
In 2011, Russia accounted for the second-largest number of tourists after the US – more than half a million. The numbers are rising fast, especially in what is called one-day tourism. Tourism from Poland and Ukraine is also rising fast. Most of them come to Israel to see the Christian sites.
Religion is a very important factor on the tourism scene in Israel, but if we want to reach the five million mark, we must develop other attractions to widen the country’s appeal. Israel must attract business travelers as well as those tourists who are looking for a god time and the famous three S’s – sea, sand and sun.
Tourism as an industry is big business. In Israel in 2011, tourism generated more than NIS 60 billion, which equals some $17 billion or around 6.5% of GDP. The income derived from direct services to incoming tourists -- hotels, tours, etc. -- amounted to NIS 21 billion, or $5.8 billion. Tourist services to Israelis taking a holiday in their own country brought an additional NIS 14 billion, or $4 billion plus. The balance of around NIS 25 billion is accounted for by ancillary services that are not purely tourist services because they are used by the population as a whole.
These include restaurants, coffee shops and pubs, taxis, gift shops, jewelers, fashion houses, etc.
In 2010, the tourist industry as measured by income grew by more than 16% and accounted for 15% of the total growth of the economy. In 2011 the number of jobs necessary to cater to the needs of incoming tourists amounted to nearly 200,000, or 6.2% of the county’s workforce.
One of the advantages of tourism as a means of employment is that it has a very wide range of job opportunities. These extend from high-paying executive managerial jobs to those of a menial nature.Business tourism
Business tourism is very important to the Israeli economy in general and to the tourist industry in particular. In 2011, tourists coming to Israel to do business amounted to about half a million, or about15% of the total number of incoming tourists. Israel is an important global hi-tech center; consequently, many hi-tech executives are frequent visitors.
Jimmy Zohar, general manager of the Carlton Hotel, one of Israel’s leading business hotels, says, “Business tourists have a different agenda than other types of tourists. For one thing, their time is very limited. These are highly paid executives, and their employees want them back at their desks as soon as possible. Consequently, the tourist services, especially accommodation, should be adapted accordingly.”
Furthermore, he adds, “Business tourism is much more stable.
Tourism is a relatively volatile industry, especially for Israel. Tourism can be equated with holiday. People who take a vacation want to have a good time. If there is a sense of instability in the region, tourists will look for another country to take their holiday. Business tourists are much less affected by disorders or the like. They come to make money and consequently are much less affected by threats of strife.”
Israel is now a fully integrated member of the global business scene, and the number of incoming business tourists is increasing rapidly. These visiting business men and women come for short business trips, so they require hotels that are adapted to their needs. It seems likely that in the future, new business hotels will be built in or near the industrial areas. The existing luxury hotels will cater to the vacationing tourist, while the new business hotels will cater primarily to the business traveler.
A business hotel The Carlton Hotel Tel Aviv is one of Israel’s leading hotels. Two years ago it was voted The Best Israeli Business Hotel in 2010 at the World Travel Awards held in Turkey. These prizes are awarded annually and are based on the ratings of global tourist executives.
The Carlton is a deluxe hotel that caters to the special needs of the businessperson. Located on the Tel Aviv seashore opposite the marina, it has 270 guest rooms, ample public spaces, a business lounge and conference rooms and a roof top swimming pool.
The hotel caters to a business clientele, as well as the classic tourist industry. And it is very popular with both.
It is famous for its sumptuous breakfasts. This is a very important amenity for the business traveler, who is usually strapped for time, because the lavish meal can serve as both breakfast and lunch. Later in the evening, an early dinner will, in most cases, cover their daily nutritional needs.
The Carlton also caters to the relaxation requirements of its guests. The hotel recently installed a modern gym and spa area with state-of-the-art facilities, including kinetic apparatus and weight lifting equipment, hot and cold saunas and a Turkish steam room.