'Tourism crucial for public relations'

Netanyahu congratulates Tourism Minister Levin on the record-breaking number of tourists that visited Israel in 2017.

Tzvi Lev ,

Tourists at Ben-Gurion airport
Tourists at Ben-Gurion airport
Flash 90

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (Likud) lauded Israel's best-ever tourism year, telling ministers at Sunday's cabinet meeting that "2017 was a historic turning point in Israeli tourism."

"More than 3.6 million tourists arrived in Israel during the year, an increase of about 700 thousand tourists compared to 2016. This is an all-time high, for we never before crossed the threshold of 3 million tourists," said Levin.

Levin said that new reforms adopted by the Tourism Ministry were part of the reason behind the success, pointing out that the ministry "adopted an innovative marketing model," and was "cooperating with the world's largest tourism agencies".

"The tourism revolution contributed a tremendous amount to the economy in 2017," Levin said. "For the first time, revenues from incoming tourism crossed the NIS 20 billion threshold, creating about 25,000 new jobs."

Prime Minister Netanyahu congratulated Levin, noting that "tourism is putting money into the State of Israel, it's like exporting- it's becoming an important part of our economy. Tourism provides jobs to different sectors the population, and I see it as important social and economic asset."

"As far as public relations are concerned, tourists who come here come out with a much more positive approach to the State of Israel," continued Netanyahu.

The largest number of tourists in Israel came from 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.

The country with the third highest number of tourists 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).

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