Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are among the top three cities in the region to visit, according to a recent poll taken by the New York-based magazine Travel + Leisure.
Cape Town was ranked by readers as the No. 1 tourist destination in the Middle East and Africa category, with Jerusalem and Tel Aviv trailing close behind. The trend for Israel's booming tourism industry is clear, as more than 1.6 million visitors visited the country in just the first half of 2011 alone.
Cairo and Dubai, both cities which have received overwhelming media attention as travel spots for the region in recent years, also ranked high on the poll as the fourth and fifth best tourist destinations.
Readers chose their favorite cities based on a number of criteria, including culture, sight-seeing, food and restaurants, travel costs and of course, shopping.
The magazine conducts such a poll every year, and for the last 16 years has also published a survey rating hotels, airlines, cities, spas, and islands, among other tourist information.
Travel + Leisures readership exceeds one million loyal explorers who base their trip itinerary on advice from this leading international tourism magazine.
The jump in tourism should come as a measure of success for Minister of Tourism Stas Miseznikov, who according the Travel + Leisure, stated that over the last two years the Ministry has reinforced its marketing activities throughout the world, focusing on creating a new image for Israel – the Holy Land with Jerusalem at its center, with a separate focus on the cities of Eilat and Tel Aviv.
While Tel Aviv and Jerusalem were ranked closely by readers, they are in fact quite different tourist attractions.
Jerusalem offers a unique religious experience with sites catering to all three faiths, such as the Dome of the Rock, the Kotel (Western Wall), and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Other attractions include official sites such as the Supreme Court, with an architectural design that alone warrants a tour.
The shuk (market) in Jerusalem projects enough colors, smells and delights to satisfy any weary traveler strolling up and down the city's rolling hills.
Tel Aviv by contrast, a city full of night life and attractions, boasts a Soho-like vibe in its southern neighborhoods, with glistening beaches along the coastline. It was named a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2003, and has been dubbed the White City brimming with Bauhaus design that makes it unique to the region.
As marketing campaigns are a new focus in Israel, the Ministry of Tourism claims that last month marked a new record hitting 262,000 tourists, and the intensive and targeted marketing campaigns will continue in order to maintain tourism traffic and increase the demand for visits to the country.
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