Tel Aviv beach
Tel Aviv beach Flash 90

While the Gaza War has predictably had a negative effect on incoming tourism for 2009, on Sunday the Central Bureau of Statistics published the statistics for incoming tourism in the year 2008, which turned out to be an all-time record year. More than three million visitors entered Israel – 32 percent more than in 2007 and 13 percent more than the previous record year of 2000.

More than 200,000 visitors entered Israel over the month of December 2008, an increase of 4 percent over December 2007.

The largest number of tourists in 2008 came from the USA (617,000; a record figure). 356,000 entered from Russia (84 percent more than in 2007), 264,000 from France (7 percent more than 2007), 187,000 from Britain (an increase of 9 percent) and 142,000 from Germany (a 40-percent increase).

During 2008, 415,000 single-day visitors came to Israel, mainly via the border crossing in Eilat. The majority of these day visitors originated their trips in Russia, Poland, Ukraine and the Czech Republic. They made up 14 percent of all visitors to Israel.

NIS 40 billion income

The Tourism Ministry estimated the tourism industry's total contribution to the Israeli economy in 2008 at about NIS 40 billion. About 160,000 employees work in tourism-related activities, of whom about 90,000 are employed directly in the various branches of the tourism industry.

Tourism Minister Ruhama Avraham-Balila intends to submit a request to the Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On to increase Israel's overseas marketing budgets. The Tourism Ministry plans to increase activities designed to stimulate demand for travel to Israel while improving Israel's image as a safe tourism destination.

Avraham-Balila predicted Sunday that "with special and significant government assistance in marketing, we will successfully confront tough competition arising from the global economic crisis and return confidence in Israel as a safe tourism destination, following the campaign in Gaza. This investment will bring a swift contribution to the Israeli economy, both in terms of revenue generated by tourism and employment in the various industries."

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