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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Almost 300,000 tourists visited Israel in April, up 41 percent from April 2007, the Tourism Ministry reported Monday.
During the first four months of 2008, 936,000 tourists arrived in Israel, an increase of 43% from the first trimester of 2007 and a growth of 34% from the same period in 2006.
According to Tourism Ministry director-general Shaul Tzemach, the growth rate matches the ministry's goal of attracting 2.8 million tourists to the country this year.
Tzemach also expressed concern about the shortage of available guest rooms in Israel and the impact this might have on the ministry's plans to draw 5 million tourists in 2012.
"The current number of guest rooms does not match future demands," he said. "We hope to build another 2,500 rooms within three years and to enlarge the budget for building hotels and assisting local and foreign entrepreneurs investing in the Israeli hotel industry."
The Tourism Ministry has already approved the construction or renovation of 700 guest rooms in the North, the Negev and Jerusalem in a bid to encourage capital investment in the industry. The scheme is expected to bring in NIS 490 million in investment.
The second stage of this investment initiative begins this week. On Wednesday, representatives of the Tourism Ministry, the Finance Ministry and the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry will examine 12 proposals for the construction or renovation of hotels and guest rooms in Jerusalem, Tiberias, Acre, Ashdod, Kiryat Shmona and the Upper Galilee.
The proposals, which outline the building of 1,660 new guest rooms, are projected to bring in NIS 1 billion in investment. Plans that meet the ministries' preconditions will be eligible for financial assistance from the government of up to 20%.
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