The number of foreign tourists visiting Israel last month returned to 2013 levels, an indication that the industry has recovered from the sharp drop in overseas arrivals during last year’s summer war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
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The Tourism Ministry reported on Sunday that 245,000 foreign tourists visited Israel last month. That was 26% more than the corresponding July last year – a jump that is unsurprising in light of the fact that the war was being fought for most of that month, accompanied by a heavy barrage of rocket fire into southern Israel, and also included regular rocket fire at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Israel’s deployment of its Iron Dome missile interception system minimized civilian casualties and property damage in most of the country.
The July 2015 figure is just below the 246,000 foreign tourists who arrived in July 2013. However, the figure for the first seven months of this year still lagged behind the same period for 2014, with 1.65 million foreign tourist arrivals – 13% fewer than last year and 1.6% fewer than the same period in 2013.
Although the data seem to show a recovery from the effects of last year’s war, the hostilities cut short what had been a trend of increasingly strong numbers of foreign tourists for the first half of 2014.
In a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, Israel Hotel Association president Eli Gonen called on the premier to implement the 2012 recommendations of a government committee aimed at lowering the cost of visiting Israel for foreign tourists, including elimination of regulation and reducing barriers to the construction of new hotels – steps Gonen said would increase competition and reduce hotel rates.