Figures show violence dents tourism in Israel

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TRAVEL GAZETTE – The number of tourists to Israel came to a standstill in 2015, due to a wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

The Ministry of Tourism said that visitor entries into Israel dropped 3 percent than 2014, defying expectation that 2015 will be a rebound year after the country’s tourism collapsed during Israel’s Gaza War in the summer of 2014.

The recent slowdown is attributed to a three-month deadly spate of violence in the West Bank, Israel and the Gaza Strip, including nearly daily attempts by Palestinians to stab Israeli soldiers and civilians.

At least 131 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, while 23 Israelis and one U.S. citizen were killed in lone-wolf shooting, stabbing and vehicular attacks.

“Despite the geopolitical turmoil, incoming tourism to Israel has displayed resilience in 2015, with only 3 percent drop in visitor entries than last year,” Director-General of the Ministry of Tourism Amir Halevi said in a statement last week.

He said the government has allocated “an unprecedented budget” for overseas marketing of tourism to Israel. Also, the government’s new “open skies” policy led to new daily flights from Europe to the city of Eilat, a major resort on the coast of the Red Sea.

“We plan to increase the accommodation supply and lower vacation costs with a recently-published tender for a chain of budget hotels and a reform to fast-track hotel construction,” Halevi added.

Tourism accounts for about seven percent of Israel’s economy. In the first six months of 2015, revenue from incoming tourism, including the income of the Israeli aviation companies from inbound tourism, totaled about 9.9 billion U.S. dollars, according to the ministry.

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