By Jacob Kamaras/JNS.org
Some 2.9 million people visited Israel last year, a 3.6-percent rise over 2015.
Earlier this week, Israel’s Ministry of Tourism released a report summarizing international travel to Israel in 2016, with the largest influx of visitors coming in the last quarter of the year.
Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin attributed the increased travel to the government’s significant investment in targeted marketing initiatives and outreach to “new markets.”
Below are 10 noteworthy facts contained in Israel’s tourism report, which is titled “A Turning Point For Tourism To Israel.”
International airline incentives
The Ministry of Tourism offered international airlines “incentives” for all passengers flying into the southern Ovda Airport near Eilat, in addition to offering the airlines incentives for opening new routes flying into the central Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv.
Record-high marketing budget
Israel spent a record-high 500 billion shekels ($131 billion) on tourism in 2016, with a focus on marketing campaigns for traditionally popular tourism feeder markets such as the U.S., Russia, Germany, France, and the U.K., in addition to new markets with a “high potential for increased tourism” like India and China.
New route from China pays off
Hainan Airlines, China’s largest private airline, opened a new route into Israel last year, which the report said contributed to a 69-percent increase in travel from China to the Jewish state.
Video advertisement in India goes viral
In 2016, Israel ran its first-ever tourism advertising campaign in India, in a video advertisement that amassed more than 11.7 million views on YouTube for what the Ministry of Tourism described as a “minimal promotional cost.”
Fastest-growing tourism feeder countries
The countries that had the largest increases in travel to Israel last year from 2015’s figures were China (up 69 percent); Croatia (62 percent); Belarus, Latvia and Georgia (each 41 percent); Malaysia (35 percent); and the Philippines (27 percent).
Eilat an increasingly popular destination
Ben Gurion Airport is Israel’s largest airport, but Ovda Airport near the southern resort city of Eilat now receives incoming flights from nine European cities. Israel is offering a subsidy of 45 euros ($48) to all passengers flying into Ovda during the current winter season, and the country expects travel through Ovda to double this winter from the 42,000 tourist entries it had in the winter of 2015-2016. Amid 10 million shekels ($2.6 million) in Israeli advertising campaigns promoting travel to Eilat in the U.K., Finland, Russia, France and Poland, Eilat was ranked seventh in TripAdvisor’s list of destinations on the rise.
U.S. marketing campaign targets Christian tourists
Israel’s 50-million shekel ($13 million) tourism marketing campaign in the U.S. targeted evangelical Christians, Catholics and Jews in New York City, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Florida.
Most travelers not part of tour groups
About 60 percent of travelers to Israel now come independently rather than as part of tour groups, a statistic that the report identified as a significant change in Israel’s tourism landscape.
Ministry of Tourism hosts journalists
Of the more than 2,000 “opinion-formers, decision-makers, celebrities and travel agents” the Ministry of Tourism hosted on trips to Israel in 2016, 70 percent—or 1,400—were journalists.
America remains largest tourism feeder country
The U.S. in 2016 retained its status as the country with the most people traveling to Israel. A total of 648,310 American tourists entered the Jewish state last year, 5 percent more than in 2015 and 8 percent over 2014’s figure.