Israel's Summer Tourism Recovering From Gaza War Numbers, Up 42%

August tourist arrivals up 42% over 2014, but still 3% off 2013 level.

Tali Meir

The number of foreign tourists who visited Israel last month still didn’t quite reach the levels of August two years ago, meaning that the country apparently has not quite recovered from the slump in tourism brought on by the war that Israel fought with Hamas and its allies in the Gaza Strip in July and August 2014.

Last month, 233,000 foreign tourists visited the country – 3% fewer than August 2013, but still 42% more than in August of last year, when Operation Protective Edge was fought for most of the month. A cease-fire was agreed on August 26. That put a halt to rocket fire from Gaza, which had targeted the south of Israel, Jerusalem, the entire Tel Aviv area and even points north, deterring tourists from coming and chasing away many who were in the country the month before when the fighting started. During the war, in most of the country things functioned nearly normally, in part due to Iron Dome, the anti-missile system that intercepted most of the projectiles.

In addition to the 42% increase in August, tourism as a whole this year over last, the number of day tourists, who come for brief visits and do not stay in the country overnight, was 75% higher this August, at 31,000, than in August 2014. But for the first eight months of 2015, at 1.88 million arrivals, overall foreign tourism was still down 8% compared to the figures for the first eight months of 2014, including the two calendar months of the war. That’s because the tourism business was particularly strong last year until the war broke out.

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin expressed optimism: “The recovery from the events of Protective Edge is going strong. I’m happy to see that the figures indicate an increase of more than 40% over 2014, and have almost fully returned to 2013 [levels].”

Levin said the ministry’s promotional budget had been increased and that a major winter advertising campaign is planned. The Israel Incoming Tour Operators Association expressed similar encouragement over the current trend.