Travel Trends: Western Wall still most visited site for locals

What's more surprising - that 99.5 percent of Jerusalem residents have visited the Western Wall, or that half a percent say they haven't?

Western Wall 88 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Western Wall 88 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
What's more surprising - that 99.5 percent of Jerusalem residents have visited the Western Wall, or that half a percent say they haven't? That and an array of other entertaining statistics were released this week in a poll commissioned by the city of Jerusalem during the lead-up to Jerusalem Day, with 200 Jewish adults questioned on a variety of topics in each of the country's three most populous cities. The poll confirmed the Western Wall's unmatched popularity in all three of Israel's major cities, with 97.3% of Tel Aviv dwellers and 97% of Haifa residents also having paid a personal visit to the site. Other tourism-related findings: More Jerusalemites express pride in their city than Tel Aviv and Haifa residents do about their's (85.3%, 76.7% and 71.8%, respectively), a statistic that helps to explain why Jerusalem residents are much likelier to have visited tourist sites in their own city over the past three years (85.2% in Jerusalem, 71.9% in Haifa and 54.8% among the relatively apathetic citizens of Tel Aviv). One characteristic shared by Haifa and Jerusalem residents is their favorite leisure activity - hiking and other day trips around the country. The sophisticates of Tel Aviv, by contrast, prefer to spend their free time visiting favorite restaurants. Some final bits of trivia: Jerusalem has the highest proportion of French, Spanish and Yiddish speakers of any of Israel's three biggest cities, and residents' favorite food is kubeh dumplings. (Haifa residents named hamin stew, another Mizrahi staple, and Tel Aviv residents prefer pizza.) Fewer tourist entries, more departures Israelis left home in growing numbers this April at all but one of the country's international departure points. With the exception of the Eilat border crossing with Egypt, Israelis traveled outside the country in higher numbers by both land and air, with a total rise of 6.7% over the same period in 2006. As usual, the grand majority of departures took place by air, with the Central Bureau of Statistics recording some 309,000 departures by plane, including 278,000 Israelis, including Israelis who live abroad. In terms of inflow, the Tourism Ministry reports that 205,000 visitors entered Israel in April, down 11% from the previous year. The ministry argues, however, that the news isn't as troubling as it initially appears, attributing the fall-off to the earlier start of Pessah in 2007, which meant that most visitors arrived for the holiday in March. The number of entries in April 2007 may have been lower than in the preceding year, but they were still stronger, ministry officials point out, than in the Aprils of 2001 through 2005. And the country's tourism industry appears to be closing the gap on last year's pre-war numbers after suffering a significant tourist drop-off following last summer's war. Visits for the period between January and April were down 6% from the same months in 2006, but the decline was only half that for March and April. Avis Israel celebrates record income Fewer tourists this year haven't meant lower revenues for the Israeli branch of the Avis car rental company. Numbers released this week reveal unprecedented earnings for the company in the first quarter of 2007, with Avis renting a total of 29,200 vehicles for record revenue of NIS 227.5 million and NIS 24m. in profits. Shavuot to generate more outward traffic Roughly 50,000 Israelis will leave the country next week as part of extended Shavuot celebrations, the Issta Travel Agency estimates. Vacationers are capitalizing on the shekel's gains against the dollar and the proximity of the holiday to the weekend, flying out before Shavuot's start Tuesday evening and returning after the weekend concludes Saturday night.