Israeli Tourism Ministry Reports Record Tourism in 2018

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Over 4,120,800 foreign tourists visited Israel in 2018, the Israeli Ministry of Tourism told the Jerusalem Post.

Tourism generated $5.8 billion USD for the Israeli economy, Israel21c reported, with most tourists faring from the United States, France, Russia, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Italy. One could add another one million tourists onto this number counting the visitors from cruises or the foreign tourists crossing the border from Jordan or Egypt, according to another Jerusalem Post report.

“This is the second consecutive record-breaking year in incoming tourism to Israel and this year we have crossed the threshold of 4 million tourists in a year," Amir Halevi, Director General of the Tourism Ministry, told the Jerusalem Post. "We are optimistic about 2019 that begins with the opening of the new international airport at Timna, that will enable us to continue bringing new flights to Eilat.  What was considered a fantasy a few years ago is today a reality: Israel is a preferred tourist destination among tourism destinations around the world."

Halevi believes the grand opening of a new international Ramon Airport located 18 kilometers from Eilat on January 21 will help promote Israeli tourism and maintain the upward trend in tourism numbers into 2019. Ramon Airport will replace two existing airports, Old Eilat City Airport and Ovda Airport, and is projected to process 2 million passengers annually in the short term while expanding capacities to process 4.3 million passengers annually by 2030.

Israel’s Tourism Ministry and Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics cites returning tourists contributing to 40% of the total tourism numbers for the year, Israel21c stated. In a demographic analysis, 61% of all tourists in 2018 were Christian, 22% were Jewish, 12.1% were unaffiliated with a particular religion, and 1.8% were Muslim. EuroMonitor, an international marketing research company, designated Jerusalem as the number one fastest growing tourist destination worldwide, and noted that most tourists frequented Israel between April and October.

“In 2018, we have reached an amazing and historic record with over 4.12 million tourists arriving in Israel," Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin told the Jerusalem Post. "We have broken incoming tourism records and this achievement is the direct result of intensive work that we are doing at the Tourism Ministry. This achievement is a result of a revolutionary change in marketing strategy; infrastructure development; opening direct routes from new destinations and creating collaborations with some of the largest travel agents in the world.”

The Jerusalem Post reports that the 2012 Euro-Mediterranean Aviation Agreement (also known as the “Open Skies Agreement”) between the European Union and Israel has permitted all airlines within the EU to operate direct flights to Israel from any EU airport, and has also granted Israeli airlines the authority to fly directly into any EU airport. The tourism ministry provides subsidies for EU airlines flying to Ben-Gurion Airport as well as the new Ramon Airport on the order of €60 per passenger during wintertime with additional ten percent bonuses for airlines with more than 14 flights a week and at least two new flights in the current season.

The Open Skies Agreement has boosted tourism from Europe from 12.4 million European tourists passing through Ben-Gurion Airport in 2012 to 17.3 million European tourists passing through the same airport in 2016, according to Haaretz.

"Incoming tourism makes a huge contribution to both Israel’s economy and its’ image,” Levin continued in his statements to the Jerusalem Post. “...[This] is the realization of a decades-old dream of all those involved in the Israel tourism industry. Within two years, we have grown incoming tourism by 1.1 million, an increase of 38%, which is rare, even in international terms.”

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