Israeli hotel executives are exuding an air of confidence ahead of the competitive Passover holiday vacation season after Israel’s Ministry of Tourism (IMOT) reported that 2013 was the best year ever for incoming tourism.
More than 3.5 million foreign travellers visited the Jewish State for business, pleasure and religious pilgrimages.
According to IMOT, 3.54 million visitors came to Israel in 2013, 0.5 per cent more than the previous record year of 2012. Once again, the largest percentage of tourists came from the United States, with 623,000 visitors, and representing 18 per cent of all incoming tourism, one per cent more than 2012.
However, the 72,000 Canadians who visited Israel in 2013 represented a two per cent decrease over 2012. No explanation was offered by the IMOT for the downturn in Canadian tourism to Israel.
While 53 per cent of Israel’s incoming tourism was derived from Christian pilgrimages, only 28 per cent of the total number of tourists came from the global Jewish community, including North America. That number would probably have been even lower without the influx of thousands of Jewish youngsters from around the world who partake in the Taglit-Birthright programs, where almost all of the costs (flights, hotels etc.) are defrayed by North American philanthropists and the Israeli government.
Jerusalem remained the most frequented city amongst tourists (75 per cent), with the Western Wall (68 per cent), Jewish Quarter (64 per cent), Church of the Holy Sepulcher (57 per cent) and the Via Dolorosa (55 per cent), which are located in the Holy City, being the most popular attractions for tourists and pilgrims alike. Tel Aviv-Jaffa was the second most visited city by tourists (64 per cent), who come to frolic along the beachfront promenade and revel in Jaffa’s historical beauty. Despite the large influx of Christian tourists, Nazareth was only the fifth most visited city (35 per cent) amongst foreign visitors.
The record number of foreign tourists also provided an economic boon for the hotel industry as well as ancillary businesses, ranging from museums to shopping malls, coffee bars and even boutique wineries. IMOT revealed that 2013’s tourists pumped nearly $12 billion dollars into the Israeli economy and provided work for 195,000 workers or six per cent of the Jewish State’s total workforce.
“2013 was a record year for tourism and we are proud of that,” said Dr. Uzi Landau, Israel’s minister of tourism.
“Despite ‘Operation Pillar of Defence’ (at the beginning of the year in Gaza) and the overall security situation in the region, tourists voted with their feet.
The Tourism Ministry will continue to invest in maintaining the numbers of tourists arriving in Israel by opening new markets and actively marketing the tourism product around the world.
“2013 was a good year, despite the fact that we were influenced by events around us [Gaza, Egyptian political instability, Syrian civil war,]” Rafi Baeri, vice-president of sales and marketing for the Dan Hotel chain told the Jewish Week.
“The Dan Hotels experienced a slight increase in demand, which helped us to finish 2013 with a small increase in occupancies. From the initial indication of the first quarter of 2014 and demand for individuals and groups for later months in 2014, we see a marked increase in demand and interest from all the main feeder markets and especially from North America.
“For North America, which is the largest source market for Dan Hotels, it looks as if our previous record which was set in 2010, will be surpassed in 2014. Demand for our hotels for Pesach is manifest to this expected growth.
Comparing the number of reservations we had 75 days prior to Pesach 2013, we have ‘on the books’ about 20 per cent more reservations for Pesach 2014. At some hotels we are already sold out on specific days and room categories, and at others we have just a few last rooms to sell. As Pesach falls in mid-April this year, we expect to see a very pleasant spring in terms of both incoming business and the beautiful holiday weather.”
A number of major hotels that regularly host guests from Canada during Pesach are still actively marketing their remaining rooms to potential clients. Amongst the hotels offering deals are:
• Dan Hotels (www.danhotels.com): At the luxurious Dan Tel Aviv, rates are valid from arrival date (April 13 or 14) for seven nights stay. The package includes seven night accommodation, two seder meals and five dinners. Categories include: standard double and single rooms, as well as a standard triple room (including a child up to 12 years old). There are still upgrades to deluxe (limited number of rooms available), as well as supplements for deluxe and executive sea view rooms. Rates can be received via travel agents or can be found on the hotel’s website.
• Inbal Jerusalem Hotel (www.inbalhotel.com): The renowned hotel has been renovated from top to bottom, including the lobby and shopping arcade. The Inbal is the only luxury class hotel in Jerusalem offering bike rentals as well as guided bike tours. Day and nighttime tours leave from the hotel on a daily basis. Pesach package options at the hotel include:
Seven nights, April 14-21: double occupancy starting from $4,990; single $3,965; 3rd in room $1,865.
Kids ages 3-12 $828; 12-18 $1235; two kids 3-12 in 2nd room $4,105. Packages include six holiday meals, including first night seder; four night package April 18-22 starting from $2880; double, $2,280; single, $1,080, 3rd in room (ask for children’s rates.)
Package includes 4 holiday meals.
• David Citadel Hotel (www.thedavidcitadel.com): Amongst the most popular Pesach venues in Jerusalem, the hotel has added one of the most sought after gastronomic attractions, Chef Itzik Mizrachi Barak, who has worked at several luxury Israeli hotels and elite restaurants abroad. He will be prepping the sumptuous menus throughout the Pesach holiday. A special seven-night Pesach package, which includes six unique culinary experiences prepared by Chef Barak, starts from $5,950 per couple in a Superior Room.
• Sheraton Tel Aviv Hotel (www.sheratontelaviv.com): The beautiful beachfront facility is highlighting two Pesach promotions. Prices for guests staying up to five nights start from $410 for a single room and $430 for a double room in the deluxe category.
Supplement for a spacious club room is $70 per night. Guests enjoy free WIFI in their rooms, as well as lobby, swimming pool and lounge. The new outdoor pool area also features a toddler’s pool. The new restaurant/bar- DECK115- will be open for guests during Pesach to revel in Tel Aviv’s exquisite sunsets and enjoy a delectable informal meal.
All prices quoted in U.S. dollars