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January 16, 2017 7:22 am

10 Things to Know About Israel’s Tourism Sector

avatar by Jacob Kamaras /

Ben-Gurion International Airport. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Ben Gurion International Airport. Photo: Wikimedia Commons. – Some 2.9 million people visited Israel last year, a 3.6 percent increase from 2015.

Earlier this week, Israel’s Ministry of Tourism released a report summarizing international travel to Israel in 2016, stating that the largest influx of visitors visited during the last quarter of the year.

Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin attributed the increased travel to the government’s significant investment in targeted marketing initiatives and outreach to “new markets.”

Below are 10 noteworthy facts contained in Israel’s tourism report, titled “A Turning Point For Tourism To Israel.”

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International airline incentives

The Ministry of Tourism offered international airlines “incentives” for all passengers flying into the southern Ovda Airport near Eilat, in addition to offering the airlines incentives for opening new routes flying into the central Ben Gurion Airport, near Tel Aviv.

Record-high marketing budget

Israel spent a record-high NIS 500 billion ($131 billion) on tourism in 2016, with a focus on marketing campaigns in traditionally popular markets as the US, Russia, Germany, France and the UK. This was combined with spending in new markets with a “high potential for increased tourism,” such as India and China.

New route from China pays off

Hainan Airlines, China’s largest private airline, opened a new route into Israel last year, which the Israeli government’s report said contributed to a 69% increase in travel from China to the Jewish state.

Video advertisement in India goes viral

In 2016, Israel ran its first-ever tourism advertising campaign in India, which amassed more than 11.7 million views on YouTube. The Ministry of Tourism said that this was achieved at a “minimal promotional cost.”

Fastest-growing tourism feeder countries

The countries that had the largest increases in travel to Israel last year were China (up 69%); Croatia (62%); Belarus, Latvia and Georgia (41% each); Malaysia (35%); and the Philippines (27%).

Eilat an increasingly popular destination

Ben Gurion Airport is Israel’s largest airport, but Ovda Airport, near Eilat, now receives incoming flights from nine European cities. Israel is offering a subsidy of 45 euros ($48) to all passengers flying into Ovda during the current winter season, and the country expects travel through Ovda to double this winter from the 42,000 entries in the winter of 2015-2016.

The Israeli government spent NIS 10 million ($2.6 million) in advertising campaigns promoting travel to Eilat in the UK, Finland, Russia, France and Poland, Eilat was also ranked seventh in TripAdvisor’s list of rising tourist destinations.

US marketing campaign targets Christian tourists

Israel’s NIS 50 million ($13 million) tourism marketing campaign in the US targeted evangelical Christians, Catholics and Jews in New York City, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Florida.

Most travelers not part of tour groups

Approximately 60% of travelers to Israel now come independently rather than as part of tour groups, a statistic that the report identified as a significant change in Israel’s tourism landscape.

Ministry of Tourism hosts journalists

Of the more than 2,000 “opinion-formers, decision-makers, celebrities and travel agents” that the Ministry of Tourism hosted on trips to Israel in 2016, 70% — or 1,400 — were journalists.

America remains largest tourism feeder country

In 2016, the US retained its status as the country with the most people traveling to Israel. A total of 648,310 American tourists entered the Jewish state last year, five percent more than in 2015 and eight percent more than 2014’s figure.

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