The Russians are coming! (Even more than the French)
Russian tourists top the list of European nationalities that have visited the country this year.
Between January and July 2008, Russians tourists to Israel outnumbered the French, topping the list of European nationalities that have visited the country this year. Figures from the Tourism Ministry indicate that a total of 1.7 million tourists visited Israel between January and July of 2008, compared to 1.2 million in the same period in 2007, a rise of 41%.
Of these, Israel hosted 170,000 tourists from Russia, 151,000 from France, 108,000 from Great Britain and 80,000 visitors from Germany.
Over the same seven months last year, 137,000 French tourists entered Israel, 95,000 visited from the U.K., 77,000 from Russia and 56,000 from Germany.
About 388,000 travelers from the United States have arrived in the country over the first seven months of the year, compared to 321,000 in the same period last year, an increase of 21%.
However, these figures also include 243,000 tourists who came to Israel for just one day, with no overnight stay, which is the vast majority of these from Eastern Europe.
Starting in October, Russian visitors will no longer be required to arrive with a visa, and the Tourism Ministry estimates the change in regulations will push the number of visiting Russian nationals up to 400,000 annually from 2009.
The ministry's marketing for 2008 included a tripling of its earmarked budget for Russian tourism, to about $3 million. Travel agents and hotels have followed suit and increased their efforts to attract Russian tourists.