It is common to see international marathons as a good opportunity to encourage the economy and increase tourism. Or in other words: It’s a sport, it’s healthy, but it’s also very rewarding. In 2014, long before the corona era, the Jerusalem Winner Marathon joined the trend and turned out to be a tidy source of income for the city coffers, in addition to the public, local and international positive effects.
Besides its benefits in terms of sports and fun, a marathon is a profitable business, a PR issue, and a source of income – which, when talking about a city like Jerusalem, one of the poorest cities in Israel, is an important thing.
Such public relations events, according to municipality officials, do not cost much to the city itself because they are financed mainly by sponsorships and visitors who come to the city and cover the money that the municipality invests.
Marathons bring in money
It brings in a lot of money, though it is not always clear how much. But in simple calculations, as well as more complicated calculations, the estimates are that such an event produces a positive economic impact for the city.
It is estimated that the revenue for Jerusalem since the marathon of 2014 up to this year’s run has exceeded NIS 10 m., according to the Jerusalem Development Authority data. The calculation of the income of NIS 10 m. was made mainly around the expenditure of the marathon tourists, who will stay in the city’s hotels for a few days. It is estimated that individuals will spend at least $100 on transportation, restaurants, attractions, etc. This is without calculating flight costs, while more tourists are added and counted as accompanying tourists (spouses, friends, etc.).
In New York City, for example, where 50,000 people participate, the claims a few years ago (before corona) was that the economic impact of the annual marathon in NYC is $340 m., with about two million people participating as spectators, volunteers and workers who operate the race.
So by now, it is clear that marathons become a profitable business for host cities. Therefore, the Jerusalem Municipality is building on the “Jerusalem” brand which will bring more and more runners every year. By 2013, the Jerusalem marathon had already been chosen as one of the 10 best international spring races in the world by the British Women’s Running Magazine.
What stands out about the Jerusalem Marathon?
THE JERUSALEM marathon has some singular characteristics, such as its standout social aspect. For example, race sections and routes that are specially adapted for families, those with special needs, and the elderly make it a popular event. All together, there are 40,000 participants, of which 25,000 runners will participate in the 12th Winner Marathon in six running options: full marathon; half marathon; 10 km. race; 5 km. race; 1.7 km. family race; and the 0.8 km. communities race. The first-place winner will go home with a $3,750 prize. The second-place winner receives $2,500, with the third-place prize set at $1,250.
“The Jerusalem marathon has become one of the most iconic global marathons. It is literally a run through history and a challenging one at that, comprising hills and valleys,” says deputy mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, who holds the city’s tourism portfolio. “We are thrilled that it attracts not just the most skilled marathon runners from around the world but also tourists who are looking for an unforgettable experience.”
“The Jerusalem marathon has become one of the most iconic global marathons. It is literally a run through history and a challenging one at that, comprising hills and valleys. We are thrilled that it attracts not just the most skilled marathon runners from around the world but also tourists who are looking for an unforgettable experience.”Fleur Hassan-Nahoum
The Jerusalem marathon is indeed considered one of the most beautiful and challenging in the world, with a track that includes important and historical landmarks in the city, alongside breathtaking views.
This year, the marathon is expected to bring significant relief to the city’s economy after the losses incurred due to the pandemic. “This is already the third time that my siblings will be joining me and my partner for the marathon,” said a woman at the entrance to the Old City earlier this week. “We made aliyah five years ago. The rest of the family remained in New York, but at this time of the year we get together all the family. The younger generation runs, the parents encourage us along the route, and everyone stays in Israel for the Passover Seder. “But the feeling is not pleasant,” she added. “It’s a lot of things – the economic situation, the terrorism that has struck again here, the road works around the city, the traffic jams, and above all, the demonstrations. We tend to support the protest in our family, but thousands protesting and blocking roads is not exactly the preferred thing for a vacation feeling.”
AT SAFRA Square, it is business as usual. Tourists come, with close to 3,000 foreigners registered for the marathon, and everything seems to look great. But sources say that there is a significant drop in reservations and visits to museums; taxi drivers say there are much fewer tourists using cabs; and tourists haven’t been frequenting the bars and restaurants as they have in the past at this time of the year – less than three weeks before Passover.
Tourism Ministry sources concede that although all the city’s hotels are booked this weekend, in the past two months there has been a 25% drop in attendance at tourist sites – coinciding with the political agitation and the terror attacks.
A municipal spokesman estimated that the cost of the marathon is NIS 10 m., mostly offset by commercial sponsors, government and municipal offices, and the participants’ registration fees. The expected revenue from the marathon is about NIS 15 m. Hotels in the capital will be fully booked this weekend, with about 2,700 runners from abroad expected to participate
Considering the fact that tourism makes up about 15% of the city’s total revenue, this is a very sensitive issue. All bodies involved agree that any uncertainty about the situation, whether because of the protest or due to terrorism, may lead to cancellations.
Tourism to Jerusalem is based mainly on religious Jews who want to spend the Passover holidays in Israel, and this sector generally does not cancel. But no one disputes that the number of tourists to Jerusalem is still well below the 2019 tourism figures. The coronavirus dealt an almost fatal blow, and the current “situation” is not helping, either.
This past Tuesday the tourism industry received good news when the ministerial committee on budget affairs unanimously decided to remove VAT on tourism services. Perhaps that will save Jerusalem’s 2023 tourism season. ❖