60% rise in tourism has Israel on the way to a new record

Oren Drori, head of marketing administration for the tourism ministry, credited the rise to the security situation in the country.

dead sea tourist 88 224 (photo credit: )
dead sea tourist 88 224
(photo credit: )
Tourism to Israel this year stands to break records, the Ministry of Tourism announced Wednesday. Tourism from January to May of this year has risen 60% percent since 2007 and is on pace to approach 3 million tourists during the entire year, which would break the previous record set in 2000. Oren Drori, deputy director general and head of marketing administration for the tourism ministry, credited the rise to the security situation in the country, as well as to the ministry's marketing strategy. Among the ministry's initiatives this year are efforts to expand flights to Israel and an overseas campaign to attract new demographics to the country. "We had a large campaign a year ago that appeals to people in places that have sophisticated travelers in specific socioeconomic situations, in order to show that tourism to Israel can appeal to a number of groups," said Drori. "We're concentrating our means in places where we think we can create added value in a short time." The ministry's campaigns have focused on the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, Germany and France. The ministry's latest addition is an expansion of its Web site, which now offers interactive maps of tourist hotspots around the country (www.goisrael.com). In addition to a map of the entire state, tourists can access maps of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Eilat, Tiberias and Netanya. The decision to put the maps online came after the ministry conducted a statistical survey of the site and found that one of the most searched items was "maps." While the site has had links to maps in other locations for years, now visitors can access that information directly. "It's important for the Web site not just to have descriptions of places but also to know how to visit them," said a spokesperson for the ministry. While the ministry's Web site is translated into eleven languages, at present the maps appear only in English. Ami Tzubery, the ministry's director of e-marketing, said that though there may be plans to offer maps in other languages, the site has limited capacity for expansion. "Because we have eleven languages now and will have eighteen soon, we can't have maps in every language," said Tzubery. "It depends on how many people from which countries look at the maps." The introduction of the maps, according to Tzubery, is part of a plan to expand the Web site for Web 2.0, the latest generation of the Internet with its focus on user-generated content. Tzubery said that the ministry expects to add blogs and forums to the site, which already has a question-and-answer forum with a tour guide. "In essence, we're working strongly to advance Web 2.0," said Tzubery. "We have several interesting things that will be very innovative, that deal with user-generated content." The ministry has been able to facilitate these improvements, says Drori, because of an increased budget from the government, which has focused more on the industry of late. "The government understands that tourism holds a significant economic value," said Drori. "Barring a severe crisis, I believe that the trend of rising tourism will continue to improve."