73 Per Cent Rise in First-Time Visitors to Israel; Incoming Tourism Revenues for First Half of Year Leap 23 Per Cent to $1.1 Billion

Israel’s Tourism Minister Avraham Hirchson: “We are in the midst of an economic revolution; Tourism is one of the main engines of growth.”

The Semi-Annual Israeli Inbound Tourism Survey released today shows that in the first six months of 2005, there was a 73 per cent increase in the number of first-time visitors to Israel-328,000 compared to 190,000 in the same period last year. The number of those arriving in the country for touring and sightseeing purposes more than doubled to 156,000 from 75,000 in the first half of 2004. Revenues from foreign tourism rose 23 per cent to $1.1 billion.

“The data show the effectiveness of our marketing efforts. Tourism is a major source of revenue for all sectors of Israeli society,” says Israeli Minister of Tourism Avraham Hirchson.

11,000 tourists were interviewed for the survey which is intended to provide a snapshot of foreign tourists to Israel. The survey outlines their expenses, length of stay, purpose of visit, where tourists stay and more.

According to the survey, in the first six months of 2005, the number of tourists identifying themselves as Catholic rose 91 per cent to 156,000, 104,000 described themselves as Protestant (+39 per cent), 104,000 as other Christian (+53 per cent), 371,000 as Jewish (+5 per cent) and 130,000 said that they had no religious affiliation (+27 per cent).

The number of tourists arriving in Israel for pilgrimage purposes doubled from 68,000 in the first six months of 2004 to 138,000 this year. A 36 per cent rise in the number of business travelers was also reported. Those arriving on organized tours numbered 181,600 in the first six months of 2005, up 40 per cent from 88,000 a year ago.