Record Number of Tourists Arrive in Israel in October

Half a million visitors swung through Israel's Ben-Gurion Airport last month and more than four million are expected for all of 2018

Two tourists at the Dead Sea, Ein Gedi, July 7, 2009.
Daniel Bar-On

Israel’s tourism industry is continuing to break records, with the Tourism Ministry reporting on Monday that October saw the biggest number of visitor arrivals for a single month ever.

The ministry said about 500,000 tourists arrived in Israel during the month, a 14% increase from a year earlier and 19% increase from last April, which previous held the title for the record month. The ministry estimated that the October tourists spent more than 2.5 billion shekels ($680 million), bringing the total take from visitors since the start of 2018 to 18 billion shekels.

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So far this year has seen a 15% increase in tourism over 2017 to 3.4 million arrivals, and the ministry expects the full-year total to reach more than four million.

“These excellent figures have been recorded month after month for two years, and are a direct result of the intensive work we are doing at the Ministry of Tourism. This year is set for another high,” the ministry said.

In fact, however, Israel is riding the crest of growing world tourism. International tourist numbers grew 6% in the first half of 2018, with southern Europe and southeast Asia posting the biggest growth, due to the upturn in the global economy, the UN World Tourism Organization estimates.

Israel tourism, which took a long time to recover from the impact of the 2014 Gaza war, has been helped by the Open Skies aviation pact with the European Union, which has caused airfares to fall and the number of carriers serving Israel to grow.

The Tourism Ministry has done its part with subsidiaries awarded airlines flying to the southern report town of Eilat as well as through ad campaigns touting the weather (“Always sunny”) and the proximity of Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (“Two cities, one break”).

The Tourism Ministry said the biggest increases in October in arrivals came from Poland, the number of whose tourists here soared by 90%, followed by Hungary (up 65%), Italy (50%) and Romania and the Netherlands (40% each).

In related news, El Al Airlines said on Monday it would open a new route between Tel Aviv and Manchester, England in May 2019, which will put it into head-to-head competition with the low-cost carrier EasyJet. El Al had stopped flying between the two cities in 2001.

El Al said it would be flying the route three times a week, on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday, with a Boeing 737 jet. To entice travelers to the new route, it will be offering discounted airfare starting at $379 for economy class and $1,199 for business class.

Meanwhile, Wow Air, the Icelandic budget airline that offered flyers super-low fares, said on Monday it would be acquired by rival Icelandair. Wow will continue operating under its own name and its local office said plans to resume service to Israel next summer are still in force.