According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, the number of visitors to Israel in 2015 is expected to total about 3.1 million. Despite the geo-political situation in recent months and the effects of Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, tourism shows resilience with only a slight decrease of 3% on 2014. It should be noted that, in the first half of 2014, there were dramatic increases in incoming tourism. The number of tourist entries (not including day visitors) is expected to total about 2.8 million entries, a decrease of 4% compared to 2014.
It is noted the statistics in points 1-3 relate to the period Jan-Dec 2015, in which the December 2015 statistics are based on an estimate.
1. Tourism by mode of travel
Out of 3.1 million visitors, 2.5 million arrived by air (78%), a decrease of less than 1% compared to 2014. About 292,000 came through the land borders (9%), a 27% decrease compared to 2014. 313,000 entries (10%) were day visitors, 32% more than in 2014. Of these day visitors, 101,000 (3%) came on cruise ships, 16% more than in 2014.
2. Tourism by Country of Origin (visitors, including day visitors and cruise ships)
As in previous years, tourism from the USA continued to represent the largest country of origin for incoming tourism to Israel, with 586,000 visitors arriving in 2015, (representing 20% of all incoming tourism), 2% more than 2014. In second place is tourism from Russia with 392,000 visitors, a decrease of 26% on 2014. Tourism from France takes third place, with about 277,000 visitors (no change on last year), followed by Germany (185,000; no change on last year) and the United Kingdom with 184,000 visitors, 10% less than 2014.
Other countries worthy of note: Ukraine with 128,000 visitors, 5% up on 2014; Italy with 82,000 visitors, 26% down; Poland, 63,000 visitors, 15% less than 2014; 62,000 visitors from Canada (an increase of 2%); from the Netherlands 46,000 visitors, 6% less than 2014.
3. Leading Countries of Origin (tourists, excluding day and cruise visitors):
In first place; USA with 571,000 tourists, 3% more than in 2014. In second place, Russia with 279,000, 28% less than last year. In third place, France with 272,000, (2% more than 2014). In fourth place, UK with 162,000 ,6% more than 2014, followed by Germany with 149,000, Ukraine with 106,000, Italy with 77,000, Poland and Canada with 55,000 and the Netherlands with 44,000.
4. Tourism to Israel: Characteristics
· 52% of incoming tourism was Christian tourism (35% of which is Catholic, 32% Protestant and 28% Russian Orthodox). 27%of incoming tourism was Jewish, with the remaining of other religious denominations or non-affiliated.
· 50% of tourists were first time visitors.
· 22% defined their visit as part of a pilgrimage, 18% as tour and travel, 13% as vacation and leisure. Overall, 53% defined their visit for tourism purposes, 28% visited friends or relatives and 10% came for business or to attend conventions.
· 24% came as part of an organized tour, 7% on a package deal, and 69% came as FITs (frequent individual tourists).
· 56% of tourists stayed in hotels, 28% stayed with friends or relatives and 5% stayed in youth hostels, 2% stayed in religious hostels. 6% stayed in rented or owned apartments.
5. Cities Visited
Jerusalem is the city most visited by incoming tourists in Israel, (77% of all tourists). Tel Aviv-Jaffa holds second place with 69% of all tourists having visited and in third place, the Dead Sea area with 48%. The Galil area, including Tiiveria and the Kinneret, holds fourth place with 35% of all tourists.
6. Tourist Satisfaction
The satisfaction level of tourists visiting Israel in 2015 was very good to excellent (4.4 out of 5). Services that received a high rating included: archeological sites (4.5); tour guides and organized tours (4.5). Among those services which did not rate so highly: value for money (3.1), disabled access to tourist sites (3.3), taxis (3.4) and cleanliness in public bathrooms (3.5).
During the first half of 2015, 369 tourist hotels operated in Israel with a total of 50,243 rooms. 76 hotels with 9,863 rooms operated in Jerusalem, 50 hotels with 11,023 rooms in Eilat, 61 hotels with 7,275 rooms in the Tel Aviv-Jaffa area, 15 hotels in the Dead Sea area with 4,052 rooms and 50 hotels with 6,397 rooms in the Tiveria and Kinneret area.
10 million bed nights were registered in these hotels in the first half of 2015, 8% decrease on 2014. Since 2008, there has been a trend in tourist bed nights, away from tourist hotels into other accommodation (youth hostels, Christian hostels and privately-owned/rented apartments). About 5.9 million bed nights (59% of the total) were from Israelis, an increase of 8% on 2014.
8. Domestic Tourism
About 7.6 million domestic overnight stays were registered in the first half of 2015 in all the various types of accommodation, 7% more than last year (7.1 million). There was an increase of 8% in hotel stays (6.3 million overnight stays). Rural tourism registered 734,000 bed nights by Israelis (2% increase on 2014), 405,000 Israeli bed nights in youth hostels (no change), 153,000 bed nights in field schools (8% decrease on 2014).
Source: Tourism and hotel services statistics quarterly
9. Tourism’s contribution to the Israeli economy
Revenue from incoming tourism in the first half of 2015 (including the income of the Israeli aviation companies from inbound tourism) totals about $9.9 billion.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)