Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Non-Accidental Tourist


Omer Yaniv
Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research www.jiis.org

Jerusalem is considered the most popular city in Israel for visitors from abroad, serving as a tourist destination with important religious and historical significance. The city has religious value for Jews, Muslims, and Christians, as well as an enormous variety of evidence and relics from different historical eras. According to data of the Central Bureau of Statistics, in 2015 about 3.1 million tourists and day-visitors entered Israel. A survey on incoming tourism conducted by the Ministry of Tourism found that 75% of the visitors to Israel during that year traveled to Jerusalem – the highest percentage among Israel’s cities.
The Old City of Jerusalem is regarded as the primary attraction for tourists from abroad, and most of the city’s popular tourist sites are located within or around the Old City. Among the main tourist sites, the Western Wall had the highest percentage of foreign tourists in 2015, at 70%. The Jewish Quarter was in second place, at 65%. Other popular tourist sites in Jerusalem include the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (49% of foreign visitors to Israel), Via Delarosa (41%), and the Mount of Olives overlook (39%). Many visitors come to these sites for religious reasons, as they are holy to Christianity and Judaism (in 2015 only 7% of Israel’s tourists from abroad visited the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is holy to Muslims). The geographical proximity of Jerusalem’s main tourist sites boosts their popularity because it allows visitors to cover the Old City and surrounding sites within a few hours.
Examining the percentage of visitors at tourist sites by country reveals that for most countries, the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter had the highest percentages of visitors. Overall, according to the Ministry of Tourism survey on incoming tourism, the percentage of European visitors to these sites is lower than the percentage of visitors from other continents. The survey found that in 2015, 96% of visitors from South and Central America traveled to Jerusalem, as did 91% of visitors from African countries, 89% of visitors from North America, and 79% of visitors from Asia. In contrast, only 69% of visitors from European countries traveled to Jerusalem in 2015.



Translation: Merav Datan