The 2018 Inbound Tourism Survey from the Israel Ministry of Tourism has just been published based on responses from 15,000 tourists and the results are mostly encouraging. Here are some of the details:

  • 93% of tourists ranked their visit as good to excellent
  • Revenue from incoming tourism: about NIS 20.88 billion (excluding flight costs)
  • 53.2% of tourists said that their views on Israel changed for the better after visiting the country; 41% said the visit did not change their minds and 1.5% said that the visit changed their views for the worst
  • Jerusalem is the most visited city (77.5%); the most visited site is the Western Wall (71.6%)
  • Average expenditure per tourist in Israel: $1,402 per stay (excluding flight costs)
  • Over 40% of tourists had visited Israel at least once
  • Approximately 64.8% of the tourists arrived in Israel independently (FITs)
  • 8.7% stayed in a rented apartment

Commenting on these figures, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said, “The year 2018 was a record year for incoming tourism to Israel, with more than 4 million tourists. Most tourists said that their impression of Israel changed for the better and almost half came for a return visit.”

Levin claimed that the constant increase in incoming tourism “is a result of the ministry’s new marketing strategy,” which is certainly within the bounds of reason.

One thing is for sure. Israel is witnessing a continuation of this upward trend in 2019.

Findings from the annual report include:

Revenue from incoming tourism in 2018 is estimated at NIS 20.88 billion (excluding flight costs)

The most visited city: Jerusalem in first place with 77.5% of all tourists, followed by Tel Aviv (67.4%), Dead Sea (48%) and Tiberias (36.2%).

Satisfaction with the visit: 93.3% of tourists ranked their visit as good to excellent.

Average expenditure per tourist in Israel: The average expenditure per tourist in Israel is estimated at $1,402 per stay (excluding flight costs), compared with $1,421 the previous year. These costs include:

$657 on accommodation (as opposed to $630 in 2017), $236 on transportation and tours ($242 in 2017), other costs (including entertainment, medical, and miscellaneous) $148, as opposed to $171 in 2017; $155 on shopping (as opposed to $165; and $207 on food and beverages (as opposed to $213 in 2017).

Changing perceptions of Israel: 53.2% of tourists said that their views on Israel changed for the better after visiting the country, 45.6% said the visit did not change their minds, and 1.2% said that the visit had changed their perceptions for the worse.

The most visited sites: Four of the five most visited sites in Israel are located in Jerusalem: -the Western Wall (71.6%), the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (52.2%), 50.1% of tourists visited Old Jaffa;  Via Dolorosa in fourth place (47.4%) and the Mount of Olives (46.8%). 37.7% visited the Tel Aviv Port, 30.9% visited the Jewish Quarter in the Old City, 26.8% Masada, 26.6% Capernaum and 25.3% visited Caesarea.

Age of Tourist: 20.7% of tourists were aged 24 and under, 35.8% were between the ages 25-44, 19.4% between 45-54 and 24.1% aged 55 and over.

Religious affiliation: More than half of the tourists visiting Israel are Christian (54.9%), over a quarter are Jewish (27.5%), and approximately 2.4% are Muslim. 42.8% of all Christians were Catholic and 30.6% Protestant.

The purpose of their visit: 24.3% defined their visit for pilgrimage purposes, 21.3% for touring and sightseeing, 30% for relatives and friends, 10.3% for recreation and leisure, 8.9% for business and delegations, and 1.2% for other purposes.

The best maintained sites in Israel: Tourists ranked Tel Aviv port (31.3%) as the best maintained site in Israel, Masada came second (26.2%) and Tel Aviv Museum of Art came third (21.1%).

Source of information: 19% of tourists said that they had received information about Israel from a travel agent or tour operator, 18.6% from relatives / friends and 62.5% from other sources.

Tourism Ministry Director-General Amir Halevi noted that the increases in incoming tourism in 2018 are continuing into 2019. “Approximately 365,000 tourist entries were recorded in June 2019, 17.7% more than June 2018 and 20.5% more than June 2017.  In the period January – June 2019, 2.265 million tourist entries were recorded, as opposed to 2.063 million in the same period last year, an increase of 9.8%. Revenue from incoming tourism in June stood at NIS 1.9 million and, since the beginning of the year, at NIS 11.7 million.”