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With latest industry data showing tourist arrivals surpassing the 1 million mark earlier-than-expected, it remains uncertain whether the violence that hit the North over the last week will stifle growth figures for the rest of the year.
The Central Bureau of Statistics and the Tourism Ministry on Monday reported a 22 percent rise in foreign tourist arrivals in the first six months of the year to 1.06 million, as June figures showed an 11% rise to 176,200 tourists for the month.
The monthly statistics coincided with the sixth day of intensified fighting in the North, which has all but ended the short-lived, high season for tourist businesses there and has some in the industry fearing it will extend to the rest of the country for the busy Jewish holiday season and fourth-quarter of the year.
A Tourism Ministry spokesman said it was unclear what the effects of the current crisis would be and that it, therefore, was too soon to give a forecast for the rest of the year. The ministry had previously set 2.4 million tourist arrivals as its end of year goal.
Meanwhile, Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog said Monday he has established a joint operation with organizational and business heads in the sector, to deal with problems that arise for the industry as a result of the security situation.
"The effects on the local market are as expected with wide scale cancellations in the North, but with the rest of the country maintaining high hotel occupancies," the Tourism Ministry said. "Until now, we haven't seen significant cancellations from incoming travel as loyal Jewish and Christian groups are expected to continue to arrive."
The CBS data showed that for the first half of the year, the biggest increase came from arrivals by cruise ship, which rose 50% to 5,700, while air passenger arrivals lifted 18% to 890,900, of which 853,800 landed at Ben-Gurion Airport.
CBS also reported that approximately 1.6 million Israelis traveled abroad in the first half, 1.2% more than last year. While land border crossings and sea travel dropped 21% and 13.5%, respectively, air travel among Israelis rose 5.7%. Some 345,000 Israelis traveled abroad in June, CBS said.