August Tourism Lowest Since 2007 Due to Gaza Op.

32% decrease in tourist entries in August, as tourism ministry scrambles to recover from Hamas terror war.

Ari Yashar ,

Tourists near Temple Mount
Tourists near Temple Mount
Flash 90

Aside from the physical destruction wrought by Hamas's recent terror war on Israel, the escalation of rocket and tunnel terror from Gaza since July has also taken a serious economic toll from the Jewish state by causing a sharp decline in tourism.

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, tourist entries to Israel in August were 32% lower than that same month the previous year - in fact, the figure constituted the lowest August number since 2007, a year after the 2006 Second Lebanon War brought tourism to a halt.

Expanding the figure to encompass the entire period of Operation Protective Edge, namely July and August, the figures reveal 31% fewer visitors entered Israel compared to the previous year.

"The tremendous blow to tourism suffered by the Israeli economy in all areas of Israel as a result of canceled visits is a factor in the economic slowdown," said Tourism Ministry Director-General Amir Halevy.

Halevy added that "the Tourism Ministry is convening this week all the Israel Government Tourist Office (IGTO) directors from around the world to formulate a plan for attracting tourists back to Israel, who provide jobs to 200,000 people in the country."

The tourism industry, which Halevy noted brings 40 billion shekels ($11 billion) to Israel annually, has been receiving reports on tourism cancellations for early 2015 as well, showing the potentially damaging after-effect of the Gaza operation.

Tourism Minister Uzi Landau responded to the new statistics, saying "the figures prove that the format for compensation we submitted to the government beyond the 40 kilometer radius (from Gaza) is what is needed. We are investing in marketing in order to increase the numbers of incoming tourists."

The statement refers to a government aid package focusing on Gaza Belt communities most hard-hit by the rocket barrage. Landau has already proposed making the Gaza Belt area a VAT free zone for a year to encourage recovery, but also has pushed for aid to the wider Israeli economy that has suffered effects from the war.

Many in Israel have expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of decisive military action in Gaza to remove the terrorist threat once and for all, a threat that has already led to three counter-terror operations since 2008 and inflicted great damage on the Israeli economy. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman just on Tuesday commented that Hamas has gotten "stronger" following each operation.

While the statistics in August may seem bleak, in the period spanning from January through August over two million tourists visited Israel, 7% more than 2013 and 6% more than 2012 and 2011.

Partially fueling the overall stable trend and offsetting the operation was the steadily rising tourism recorded at the start of the year - in February a record-breaking 224,000 visitors arrived in Israel, with 221,500 of them arriving as tourists, breaking another monthly record.



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