Tourism to Israel Plummeted by 22% in First Half of 2009

Recent figures suggest Israel's tourism sector has entered recession in first half of 2009.

Official figures have revealed that hotel occupancy dropped 31% in May and that passenger traffic at Israel's gateways slipped 22% in the first half of 2009, as opposed last year.

The information, provided by the Israel Hotel Association and Israel Airports Authority, suggests Israel's tourism industry has entered a recession.

According to the airports authority, 15% fewer passengers came to Israel by air as opposed to May 2008, and 22% fewer through overland border crossings. The biggest slump was experienced at the Taba Crossing between Israel and Egypt, where 38% fewer passengers crossed since January, as opposed to the first half of 2008.

Two weeks ago, the Tourism Ministry said that the Pope's visit to Israel last month made no contribution to the sector. The number of tourists coming into Israel through Ben-Gurion International Airport stood at 175,000, 10% fewer than the last papal visit, in 2000.

Officials from the tourism industry will hold an emergency meeting on Monday, urging the government to drop plans to levy a tourism tax.