Despite the generally bleak economic situation worldwide, tourism to Israel has increased four percent over last year.
The figures, released today (Thursday August 11) cover the first half of 2011, and show that 1.9 million visitors – 1.6 million of whom were tourists – entered the Jewish State and spent more than one night.
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, the number of day tourists for the same period, however, fell 25 percent, to 251,000. Of those, 102,000 arrived as cruise ship passengers, in a 42 percent jump over the corresponding months of 2010.
Moreover, the tourists who come to Israel are expressing high levels of satisfaction with their experience, according to the latest survey by Geocartography.
The 2010 Incoming Tourism Survey sampled 27,000 of the 3.45 million tourists who visited Israel last year – the country's record tourism year.
Highest ratings (between 4 and 5 on a scale of 1 to 5) went to archaeological sites, personal safety, accommodation facilities, night life and people's friendliness to the tourist.
Of greatest interest to tourists was Israel's capital city: a whopping 77 percent of tourists visited Jerusalem, with 56 percent visiting Tel Aviv, 51 percent going to the Dead Sea, 35 percent heading to Tiberias and 33 percent visiting Nazareth.
Rated between 3.4 and 3.8 out of 5 were cleanliness in public spaces, security checks, airport facilities, restaurants and taxis.
Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov attributed the stability in the tourism industry to “increased budgets and intensive marketing activities.” He noted that revenue from incoming tourism alone totaled NIS 8 billion in January – July 2011.
The tourism industry directly and indirectly employs 160,000 people.