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      2013 Record Year for Israeli Tourism

      Foreign tourist entries up 3% from 2012; December sets monthly record with 24% increase from previous year.
      By Ari Yashar
      First Publish: 1/9/2014, 7:37 PM

      Tourists at Kotel (Western Wall)
      Tourists at Kotel (Western Wall)
      Flash 90

      Israel experienced a record breaking year in terms of tourism in 2013 according to the Central Bureau of Statistics. International tourist entries reached a record high, marking a 3% increase from 2012, as domestic tourism similarly soared 3%.

      In particular, the number of tourist entries to Israel in December reached a 24% increase from the previous year, setting a monthly record for Israel. In the process, December broke the record set just two months earlier in October.

      Tourism Minister Uzi Landau warmly welcomed the figures, saying "the year 2013 is a record year for tourism and we are proud of that. Despite Operation Pillar of Defense and the security situation in the region, tourists voted with their feet."

      Already after the first half of 2013 figures indicated a record year in tourism. Jerusalem was the most visited city by foreign tourists, with the Kotel (Western Wall) being the most visited site.

      Most visitors, came from the US, followed by Russia, France, Germany and the UK. Christians made up 53% of the visitors, while 28% were Jewish. 

      Growing ties with China, which led to recent agreements to promote mutual tourism, may see the country, with its massive population, become a front-runner in the tourism sources.

      As far as the financial aspect of tourism, figures indicate that the industry generated 40 billion shekels ($11.4 billion) for the economy.

      Landau pledged to continue promoting the industry, promising that his ministry will open new markets and actively market "the tourism product around the world."