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Israel tourism yet to rebound to pre-COVID levels

Some 1.97 million visitors entered the country in the first half of 2023.

Tourists at a lookout point on the Mount of Olives gaze down on the Temple Mount and the Old City of Jerusalem, Feb. 8, 2023. Photo by Jamal Awad/Flash90.
Tourists at a lookout point on the Mount of Olives gaze down on the Temple Mount and the Old City of Jerusalem, Feb. 8, 2023. Photo by Jamal Awad/Flash90.

The number of visitors to the Jewish state has yet to return to pre-COVID levels, according to figures the Tourism Ministry released on Wednesday.

In the first half of 2023, 1.97 million tourists entered Israel, spending 11.7 billion shekels ($3.16 billion), the ministry said.

Those numbers are below the corresponding time period of 2019, which was a record year for Israeli tourism. It was also the last full year of international travel before coronavirus travel restrictions began in 2020.

During the first half of 2019, 2.26 million tourists entered Israel. By year’s end, Israel had 4.9 million visitors who spent 8.46 billion shekels ($2.29 billion).

The ministry noted that tourism from Russia and Ukraine has dropped sharply since Russia invaded Ukraine. Before the war, Russia was the second-largest source of visitors, behind only the U.S.

Based on the current figures, the ministry projects 3.9 million tourists will visit by the end of the year.

“Israel is attractive and offers a wealth of experiences,” said Tourism Minister Haim Katz. “I will work to remove barriers to arriving in the country, speeding up the pace of infrastructure construction and adding lodging rooms, in order to realize the tourist potential.”

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