Despite Iran Threat, Booming Israeli Tourism Sets Records


ben-gurionIsrael is facing a risky showdown with Iran over its suspected nuclear program, concerned about neighboring Syria’s bloody civil war spilling across the border and dealing with terrorists attempting to infiltrate from Egypt’s lawless Sinai Peninsula.

But that does not seem to deter hundreds of thousands of tourists from flocking to Israel each month, according to an Israel Hayom report. Despite the turmoil, Israel is enjoying an unexpected tourism boom, and 2012 is shaping up to be a record year.

Nearly 300,000 tourists arrived in July, a record for the month and an 8 percent increase over the previous July, according to the Tourism Ministry. The trend is nothing new: The ministry says each month of 2012 so far has set an all-time record for that month.

“It’s a period where, on the face of it, we should be struggling with an economic downturn and the Arab Spring around us, but it hasn’t worked out that way,” Uri Steinberg, head of the America department at the Tourism Ministry, told Israel Hayom.

He said Israel initially hoped that tourists fearful of traveling to Egypt would choose Israel instead. But more often than not, he said, tourists planned Israel-Egypt combination tours and then put off the whole trip because of the unrest in Egypt.

Nearly 70,000 of July’s tourists were from the U.S., a 9 percent increase over the previous July, according to the Israel Hayom report. The second largest source, with just under 30,000, was Russia.

{ Israel News Bureau}