Tourists at Bet Guvrin-Maresha caves
Tourists at Bet Guvrin-Maresha cavesYonatan Sindel/Flash 90

While Hamas's terror war on Israel over the summer had a negative effect on the tourism industry, the overall number of tourists visiting the Jewish state over the entirety of 2014 remained at nearly the same figure as 2013, largely thanks to a very strong start to the year.

There was a total decrease of 7% in the total number of visitors to Israel, although the 22 million night stays in Israeli hotels was only a 1% decrease from 2013. Meanwhile domestic tourism rose by 3% in 2014.

A positive trend was also seen in the quality of stay, with satisfaction levels listed by tourists ranging from very good to excellent (4.3 on a 5-point scale). Archaeological sites were highest rated in terms of satisfaction, scoring 4.5, guided tours received 4.4 and personal safety 4.3.

"This year, which started with a steep increase in the number of tourists, posed difficult challenges to us. Despite Operation Protective Edge, we succeeded in maintaining the same number of tourists and hotel overnights, thanks to focused overseas marketing, and mainly as a result of the Israeli response to the 'Vacation in Israel Now' campaign while the operation was still taking place," said Tourism Minister Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beytenu).

Landau continued "Israeli vacationers filled the hotels in the peak season of August, thereby supporting businesses in outlying areas and the Israeli economy. At the same time, we managed to bring down the cost of vacationing in Israel by increasing supply and incentivizing the construction of budget accommodation and camping options, as well as commencing the hotel ratings procedure."

"We have ensured that local authorities maintain a high level of maintenance of existing tourism infrastructure as a condition for ongoing construction and development," concluded the minister.

The countries that posed the leading sources of tourists for 2014 were the US, Russia, France and Germany, with a full 56% of incoming tourists being Christian.

Tourism as an industry contributes a full 41 billion (nearly $10.4) to the Israeli economy, and provides work for over 200,000 employees, making up roughly 6% of the total workforce.

"Operation Protective Edge halted our momentum, but we can already see the light at the end of the tunnel, with recovery in the first half of 2015," said Gen. Amir Halevi, Ministry of Tourism Director. 

"The 500 million shekel assistance package assembled by the ministry for tourism businesses bolstered the industry, and restored our status as a growth engine that streaming tens of billions of shekels into the economy," added Halevi. "This year, we put our emphasis on digital marketing aimed at independent travelers (FITs)."

The ministry director added that FITs "are keen to exploit the prices from the open skies policy and are ready to enjoy the city breaks we have on offer - to run marathons in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the Galilee, to cycle in the Negev, to enjoy opera at Masada and in Akko and to have fun in Tel Aviv. We have invested in hosting thousands of opinion-formers from overseas who have become tourism ambassadors, spreading the word throughout the world of how good it is to visit Israel."