On the eve of the competitive Passover vacation season, Israeli hoteliers are hoping that a strong tourism showing in 2013 — a record 3.5 million tourists visited the Jewish state last year — will continue into the spring.
According to the Israel Ministry of Tourism, 3.54 million visitors came to Israel in 2013, 0.5 percent more than the previous record year of 2012. The largest percentage of tourists came from the U.S., with 623,000 visitors, which represents 18 percent of all incoming tourism, up 1 percent from 2012. Fifty-three percent of Israel’s incoming tourism came from Christian pilgrimages.
Jerusalem remained the top draw among tourists (75 percent of visitors came to the city). Tel Aviv-Jaffa was the second most visited city (64 percent).
The record number of foreign tourists also provided an economic boon for the hotel industry, as well as ancillary businesses including museums, shopping malls, coffee bars and boutique wineries. The tourism ministry said that visitors in 2013 pumped nearly $12 billion into the Israeli economy and provided work for 195,000 workers, or 6 percent of the country’s workforce.
Uzi Landau, Israel’s tourism minister, said in a statement, “2013 was a record year for tourism and we are proud of that. Despite ‘Operation Pillar of Defense’ (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.”
Rafi Baeri, vice president of sales and marketing for the Dan Hotel chain, told The Jewish Week, “2013 was a good year, despite the fact that we were influenced by events around us [Gaza, Egyptian political instability, Syrian civil war]. … From the initial indication of the first quarter of 2014 and demand for individuals and groups for later months, we see a marked increase in demand and interest from all the main feeder markets, especially from North America.”
Baeri said the hotel is currently running about 20 percent ahead of last year in terms of Passover reservations. The holiday falls in mid-April this year.
Despite the brisk sales for the forthcoming Pesach holiday vacation season, many major hotels that cater to audiences from the New York area are offering discounts. Among 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- night stays. The package includes: seven-night accommodations, 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). Upgrades to Deluxe rooms, as well as supplements for Deluxe and Executive Sea View Rooms, are available. 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 night time 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 $4990. Single, $3965/3rd in room, $1865; kids ages 3-12, $828 / 12-18, $1235/ two kids 3-12 in 2nd room, $4105. Package includes: six holiday meals including first night seder. Four-night package (April 18-22) starting from $2280. Double, $2280/ Single, $1080/ 3rd in room (ask for children’s rates). Package includes four holiday meals.
◆ David Citadel Hotel (www.thedavidcitadel.com): Among the most popular Pesach venues in Jerusalem, the hotel now features Chef Itzik Mizrachi Barak, who has worked at several luxury Israeli hotels and elite restaurants abroad. He will be preparing the menus throughout the Pesach holiday. A special seven-night Pesach package, which includes six meals prepared by Chef Barak, starts from $5950 per couple in a Superior Room.
◆ Sheraton Tel Aviv Hotel (www.sheratontelaviv.com): The beautiful beachfront facility is highlighting two Passover 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.