The growth in the number of visitors arriving in Israel for less than 24 hours weakens the local tourism industry and enriches neighboring countries, Israel Hotel Association director-general Shmuel Tzurel said Wednesday.

By the end of the year, 400,000 one-day tourists will enter the country and will not sleep in any of Israel’s hotels and guest houses, he said, adding: “This anticipated growth of 200 percent, in comparison to 2007, should be a warning sign for the decision-makers. The one-day visitors add a burden on the tourist sites and infrastructure without giving anything back.”

While the standard tourist spends an average $1,550 during his visit to Israel, the one-day tourist spends only $150, Tzurel said.

“This phenomenon enriches the neighboring Sinai Peninsula and Turkey [tour operators], who add a one-day tour to Israel to the tour packages they market and damage the Israeli tourism industry,” he said.

The increase in one-day tourists entering Israel reflects a great failure in exhausting the potential of local tourism, Tzurel said.

“This loss is of 10,000 potential vacancies,” he said. “The decision-makers must address the problem immediately and work to increase the marketing efforts of Israel as a tourist destination abroad.”

The Israel Hotel Association also published figures showing that during the first six months of 2008 there was a 32% increase in the number of tourists’ overnight stays in guest and hotel rooms, compared to the first half of 2007; a decrease of 7% was reported in Israelis’ overnight hotel stays.

For the first half of 2008, 10 million overnight stays were reported, up 10% compared to the first half of 2007. Most overnight stays were in Jerusalem hotels, with 1.8 million, a 37% increase, and in Tel Aviv, with one million overnights stays, up 19%.

A general increase of 13% in hotel-room occupancy was reported during the first six months of 2008.