Israel gears up for Passover and Easter tourists

More than 250,000 visitors expected over holiday season; Ministry of Tourism's 'faith tourism' industry seeks to increase Christian visitors

Tourists at Kotel 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Tourists at Kotel 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Over a quarter of a million foreign tourists are expected to visit during Pessah and Easter, the Tourism Ministry reported on Friday.
The seven-day Pessah holiday begins on Monday evening.
RELATED:'Jerusalem needs to convince the world it's a safe city'Chris Matthews: Everyone feels an internal draw to Israel
Next weekend Easter, both Western and Eastern Orthodox, begins, bringing tens of thousands of Christians.
One of the highlights of the pilgrimage for Orthodox Christians is the Ceremony of the Holy Fire, to be held next Saturday in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem. The ceremony brings thousands of worshipers into the alleyways of the Old City as the fire is passed among the faithful.
Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov has promoted a number of initiatives to encourage Christian tourism in Israel, as part of the “Faith Tourism” program. These projects include launching the modular Gospel Trail, which will be completed in May and will offer pilgrims the opportunity to hike, bike, travel by car and by boat on the Sea of Galilee.
Click for special Jpost Pessah features
Click for special Jpost Pessah features
Last week, the government reported that 741,000 tourists arrived during the first quarter of 2011, a drop of 1 percent from the same period last year. In March, about 274,000 tourists arrived, 12% less than in March 2010 and 37% more than in March 2009.
The government sees the drop in tourists as being related to the recent unrest in the Middle East as well as the fact that last year Pessah and Easter fell in March and not in April as happened this year.
“The Tourism Ministry must contend with the geopolitical consequences in the area that are likely to affect incoming tourism traffic to Israel. In recent weeks, the ministry initiated a series of marketing activities that have succeeded in ensuring continuing demand for tourism to Israel. These activities will continue in the near future and we expect the month of April, with the festivals of Pessah and Easter, to continue this trend,” Meseznikov said.