Tourists at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
Tourists at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Photo by Emil Salman
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The number of foreign visitors coming to Israel is breaking records this summer. In July, 296,000 visitors arrived, which was 8% more than the corresponding month last year and 6% higher than July 2010, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics. Since the beginning of the year, 2 million tourists have come to the country, 7% more than the same period last year and 5% more than in 2010.

"Against the backdrop of constant increases in [tourism] demand, there is an urgent need for additional hotels, which would increase competition in the industry and lower the price of accommodations for both foreign tourists and Israelis," Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov said. A committee that has been examining ways to reduce vacation prices here is recommending that additional hotel rooms be built, the minister said, adding that its full recommendations would be released at the end of the month.

Of the tourists who arrived last month, 241,000 of the nearly 300,000 of them stayed overnight at least one night rather than crossing into the country for the day. There was, however, a 47% jump in visitors here for the day in July 2012 compared to July of last year, when unrest in the Arab world curbed the number of foreign tourists to Egypt, for example. Foreign visitors who come to Israel for the day spend $160 in Israel on average, the Tourism Ministry says, compared to tourists who stay in Israel for longer periods, who spend more than $1,300 on average.

The United States provided the largest single number of overnight tourists in July, 69,000, which was 9% more than came in July of last year. In second place was Russia, which provided about 30,000 visitors, 3% more than last year. British tourists were next in number, at about 14,000, up by 5%.

According to data released yesterday by the Israel Airports Authority, today alone about 61,000 air passengers are expected to arrive or depart Ben-Gurion International Airport on about 390 flights. There are several other days in August when traffic in a single day is expected to reach similar volumes, notably on Sundays and Thursdays.

The route with the largest passenger volume expected today is on flights to and from Greece, with 8,206 travelers, followed by Italy with 5,018, Germany with 4,851 and France with 4,317. In July there were 1.4 million international air travelers on 9,576 flights to and from Ben-Gurion Airport. Passenger volumes for the month were 4.5% higher than in July of last year.

The airport authority expects a total of 2.9 million arriving and departing passengers on international flights through Ben-Gurion Airport for all of July and August, which would be 2.3% more than last year. Although the authority said it has beefed up staff at the airport for the summer season, it recommends that passengers check the status of their flights before traveling to the airport. It also suggests that travelers arrive three hours before their flights.

The authority's website, www.iaa.gov.il, which features updated airport arrival and departure information, is now formatted for smartphones and tablet computers. The site is in Hebrew, English and Arabic and contains flight information up to 12 hours in advance. The Airports Authority suggests that departing passengers consult their airlines' websites to see if their carrier offers the possibility of checking in online and printing boarding passes before arriving at the airport.