Misezhnikov: Israeli attitude towards tourists must change "from a burden to an asset"
Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov presented statistic data on tourism in Israel in 2009 and outlined the ministry's plans for the next three years. The chief goal is to bring in an additional million tourists for 2010-2012.
According to data presented by the minister, 2.7 million tourists visited Israel in 2009, an 11% decrease compared with 2008, but an overall higher number than in any other year.
Tourism from the United States was the primary source with 550,000 visitors amounting to 21% of all incoming tourism but with an 11% decrease from last year. At second spot was Russia with 400,000 visitors amounting to 15% of all tourists, with a 12% increase compared to 2008. It should be noted that 31% of those visitors arrived fro one-day visits.
French tourists came in third with 260,000 visitors followed by the UK with 170,000 travelers. Ranked below them were tourists from Germany, Italy, Poland and the Ukraine.
Thirty-nine percent of incoming tourism was of Jewish travelers and 54% of Christians.
In total 61% of the visitors came for vacation purposes. Some 25% of travelers came to visit relatives and friends, while 12% came for business visits.
The tourist's average stay dropped form 10 nights (for tourists staying up to a month) in the beginning of the decade, to nine nights on average in 2009.
The most toured city in 2009 was Jerusalem with 74% of tourists stating they visited it, followed by Tel Aviv with 56% of travelers visiting it. Some 45% toured the Dead Sea area.
The most toured sites were Jerusalem's Western Wall (74%); the Jewish Quarter (66%); Mount of Olives (54%); Church of the Holy Sepulchre (53%) and Via Dolorosa (51%).
The data also indicated that there was a 5% drop of travels of Israelis aboard compared with 2008.
The year 2009 also saw 337 hotels occupied with 45,000 rooms booked. Sixty-nine hotels operated in Jerusalem with 9,000 rooms booked; 50 hotels in Eilat with 11,000 rooms and 49 hotels in Tel Aviv with a total of 6,000 booked rooms.
More tourists, more jobs
As part of his plan for the next three years, Minister Misezhnikov stated that an additional million tourists for those years will earn Israel some NIS 4.5 billion (roughly $1.18) and generate 40,000 jobs. He noted that this would increase employment, particularly in the periphery areas.
Misezhnikov further detailed the various possible advantages of increasing incoming tourism for related economic fields, including small and medium businesses.
He also spoke about changing Israeli attitude towards tourists "from a burden to an asset" and the need to cerate a tourism police.