Israeli tourism rising, nearly one million tourists visit in 2018

Despite political tensions, a record number of tourists from all over the world flocked to Israel in the beginning of 2018. Numbers are only expected to increase throughout the summer months.

Tel Aviv tourists tell the Jerusalem Post why they're visiting Israel, May 7, 2018. (Ruty Korotaev, Ania Bessonov)
Tourism to Israel is continuing to increase in 2018, with nearly one million recorded tourists visiting the Jewish State from January to March, according to data from the Central Bureau of Statistics.
This is a 30 percent increase when compared to rates from the same period in 2017, during which 770,000 tourists entered the country, and is 58 percent more than the 2016 numbers. In March alone, 393,000 tourists visited Israel, which is 63 percent more than the amounts seen just two years ago.
“Further to the opening of new direct air routes and new markets from India and Brazil in the last month, we are witnessing record levels of incoming tourists,” said Tourism Minister Yariv Levin.
“This is a result of the marketing activities and the innovative steps we are taking together with the incentives for airlines and investment in infrastructure. Tourism continues to contribute significantly to the Israeli economy and the labor market.”
The largest increase came from places where the ministry is investing its marketing efforts, in countries such as the United States, which saw a 39 percent increase, and Poland, that reportedly had a 136 percent increase. In Sweden, tourism to Israel increased by 90 percent and 55 percent in Germany.
Such a boost in tourism has had a tremendous economical impact and in 2018, has already injected 4.9 billion NIS into the Israeli economy, which is approximately 577 million dollars.
Canadian tourist Alex Lam is currently on his second trip to Israel and plans on stopping by several major Israeli cities and landmarks during his time here. Though he has no connection to Judaism, he is still interested in learning about this country and all that it has to offer. 
“I heard it was a beautiful country and I just wanted to see Israel for myself,” said Lam, who plans on visiting Haifa, Ein Gedi, and Jerusalem, among other places.“I love to explore, and Israel just happened to be on my stop.”
Despite traveling to many other countries, Adam Aber has always wanted to visit  the Jewish homeland, and is currently on his first trip to Israel. He is doing an internship in Tel Aviv through Onward Israel, which is a program that brings students in from around the world to do short-term internships in Israel. 
“I just have this great passion for the outdoors, I really love exploring new cultures and new food and I want to reconnect with my Jewish identity,” said Aber, who is also a tourist from Canada. “Israel seemed like the perfect opportunity to do all three of those things, so I just felt a calling and had to be here.”
Sam Shatzkin is a Career Israel participant from New York, US and has been to Israel seven times. Even though he does not have any family in Israel, he has made many friends throughout the years and said that they are the main reason why he keeps coming back.
“I feel like it’s just a great place to be open and even aside from being Jewish, I really feel like I’ve embraced the culture. It’s such a different lifestyle but still has so much of what it’s like to be in America.”