Tourism at all-time high in 2017

3.6 million tourists visited Israel in 2017, an all-time record, according to the Tourism Ministry.

Elad Benari ,

Ben Gurion International Airport
Ben Gurion International Airport

3.6 million tourists visited Israel in 2017, 25% more than in 2016 and an all-time record, the Globes financial daily reports.

The Ministry of Tourism believes that incoming tourism contributed 20 billion shekels to the Israeli economy.

The country from which the largest number of tourists to Israel come is the U.S. - over 700,000 tourists, 21% more than in 2016. Russia was in second place with 307,000 tourists, a 26% increase. The increase in tourism from Russia is attributable to the growth in routes and flights from Russia to Israel, some of which are run by low-cost airlines, and the exclusion of Turkey from the Russian tourist map in recent years, noted Globes.

The company with the third highest number of tourist to Israel in 2017 was France with 284,000 tourists, 8% more than in 2016, followed by Germany in fourth place with 202,000 tourists, a 34% rise over 2016, and the UK, which supplied 185,000 tourists to Israel, 10% more than in 2016.

Other important sources of incoming tourism included Ukraine with 137,000 tourists, China with 105,000 - a country emphasized by the Ministry of Tourism due to its enormous potential as a source of tourism, Italy (93,000), Poland (85,000), and Canada (75,000).

59% of the tourists who visited Israel this year came for the first time. 25% described the purpose of their visit as religious, meaning a pilgrimage, 23% as touring and hiking, and 10% as entertainment and enjoyment. 24% came to visit relatives and friends, and 11% for business and being an emissary. 30% of the tourists came on organized trips and 64% independently, while 6% purchased tourist packages.

The Ministry of Tourism's marketing budget this year was 440 million shekels, notes Globes, and it included campaigns in Europe, the United States, and the Far East, some in cooperation with airlines that started routes to Israel, such as Wizz Air.

The Ministry of Tourism did not confine its advertising to the pilgrimage market, as it did for many years; it also marketed other aspects of Israel, such as night life, culinary aspects, and sports.

The marketing measures included special treatment for the three millionth tourist, who received exposure. The tourist, Ioana Isac, was welcomed to Israel by Tourism Minister Yariv Levin and received a tour of the Old City of Jerusalem in which the tour guide was none other than Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Other tourism campaigns included a lifeguard shed in Tel Aviv that became a boutique hotel; a social networks campaign in China; hosting 3,000 opinion-makers from all over the world, and more.

Minister Levin said, "The all-time record number of tourists visiting Israel this year is no accident; it is the result of a clear policy. The actions taken by my ministry since I took up my position have brought Israel an unprecedented peak in incoming tourism. The number of tourists visiting Israel increased by 700,000, setting a new record for incoming tourism to Israel and adding NIS 20 billion to the economy."

In August, 2.5 million travelers passing through Ben Gurion Airport surpassed the Israel Airports Authority's (IAA) expectations, setting a new record after July saw 2.3 million.

In October, the number of travelers increased 60%, from 290,000 in October 2016 to nearly 464,000 during the same period this year.