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      2010 Record Year for Tourism to Israel

      The holy city of Jerusalem is the most visited city and the Western Wall the most popular site in the country, says the Tourism Ministry.
      By Chana Ya'ar
      First Publish: 12/27/2010, 9:24 PM / Last Update: 12/28/2010, 3:44 AM

      The year 2010 set a record in tourism to Israel, according to the Ministry of Tourism, with 3.45 million arrivals registered.

      Statistics released Monday showed 26 percent more visitors than Israel had seen a year earlier, and 14 percent more than in 2008, Israel's previous record-setting year.

      According to the ministry figures, 2.8 million visitors were tourists who stayed more than one night – 21 percent more than in 2009, and 10 percent more than in 2008, another record.

      Of the 3.45 million incoming tourists, 2.3 million arrived by air (68 percent), an increase of 18 percent over the previous year and 10 percent over 2008, representing a boon to the airline industry.

      Luxury cruise ships did not suffer, however: some 160,000 came on cruise ships by sea – double the number that arrived in 2009 and three times those who came in 2008.

      Some 490,000 entered through the land crossings (14 percent) – 38 percent more than in 2009, and 8 percent more than in 2008. Another 470,000 were day visitors who arrived by land and air – 34 percent more than in 2009 and 11 percent more than in 2008. These were arrivals mainly from Russia, Poland, the Czech Republic and Ukraine, all located within close geographic flying range.

      American Tourism Still Leads
      As in previous years, the United States continued to lead with 625,000 visitors arriving this year, representing 19 percent of all incoming tourism. This was an increase of 14 percent over last year, and a slight increase over the tourism figures for 2008.

      Tourism from Russia followed in second place with 560,000 visitors, comprising 15 percent of all incoming tourism – 40 percent more than last year. About 240,000 of these – 40 percent – were day visitors.

      French tourists comprised the third largest category, totaling about 285,000 visitors, 9 percent more than in 2009 and 7 percent more than in 2008.

      The United Kingdom and Germany followed, each with some 180,000, as well as Italian tourists (160,000), Polish visitors (130,000 – 60,000 of whom were day tourists), and those from Ukraine (90,000, half of whom were day visitors), Canada (73,000) and Spain (65,000).

      The majority of incoming tourists this year (69 percent) were Christian, more than half of whom were Catholic). Of the remainder, 23 percent were Jewish; the others were of various faiths and/or unaffiliated.

      Although 38 percent said they were coming to Israel on a pilgrimage, 69 percent said the purpose of their visit was “tourism.” In addition, 17 percent said they came to visit friends and relatives, 15 percent came on business, 41 percent arrived as part of an organized tour, 25 percent came pas part of a packaged tour and 34 percent were traveling independently.

      Jerusalem is the city most visited by incoming tourists in Israel (76 percent), according to the Tourism Ministry statistics, with Tel Aviv-Yafo (Jaffa) in second place and the Dead Sea area in third.

      The Western Wall is the most visited site in the State of Israel (77 percent), closely followed by the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem (73 percent), the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (61 percent), the Via Dolorosa (60 percent) and the Mount of Olives (55 percent).