tourism decline 88 298.
(photo credit: Courtesy IAA)
The tourism industry had its strongest month since the summer's war in Lebanon, counting 144,800 foreign visitor arrivals in October, but industry professionals were still reluctant to predict an imminent recovery.
"We are still feeling the effects of the war and don't expect to see a change in the coming months," said Tova Pinto, director-general of the Israel Hotels Association. "We forecast that the real recovery will start towards mid-2007."
The Central Bureau of Statistics and the Tourism Ministry reported that October saw just 12 percent fewer visitors than the parallel month last year, slowing the negative trend after tourism dropped some 38% in September.
Of the October arrivals, 127,000 came in by air, 10% fewer than last year, while 16,800 arrived by land, down 18% from October 2005.
Before the war, the ministry had predicted that around 2.4 million tourists would arrive this year and in the first six months of the year the industry showed consistent 27% growth keeping it on-track to achieve that number.
Instead, Sunday's statistics showed that 1,577,700 tourists arrived in the first 10 months of the year, down 0.8% from the 1,589,400 count of the parallel period 2005. The number of tourist arrivals is expected to end the year at around the 1.8 million mark.
Pinto noted that October was boosted by the influx of Jewish visitors for the Jewish festival period and by Christian arrivals for their Feast of Tabernacles.
Despite this, the Tourism Ministry noted a positive trend for the industry, especially in light of the steady growth in tourist arrivals by air each month since the war.
"We are seeing the first encouraging statistics showing a gradual recovery trend since the war in the North," Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog said. "We are determined to rehabilitate tourism and persuade tourists from all over the world to return to Israel. We are still lagging behind the 2005 level but hope that 2007 will be positive."
The ministry has recently stepped up its marketing activities to improve Israel's image abroad which was hurt by the war. Herzog met with representatives from the Romanian tourism industry over the weekend to advance the tourist flow between the two countries.
In addition, the ministry will also host a seminar on Tuesday where it will present the findings of research carried out by consultant firm Ernst & Young on the tourism industry and the recommendations it has made to advance the sector in the coming years.
The CBS also reported that outgoing traffic grew in October as 364,000 Israelis travelled abroad compared to 323,200 last year, bringing the total for the first 10 months of the year to 3.3 million, representing a growth of 3.6% over the parallel period last year.