(Communicated by the Ministry of Tourism)
The year 2013 was Israel’s record year for incoming tourism with 3.54 million visitor entries. During the first three months of 2014, this trend has continued, with about 775,000 visitors entering Israel, 3% more than the same period in 2013.
In 2013, Christians represented more than half (53%) of all incoming tourists (those staying more than one night), 96% of day visitors and 78% of cruise visitors. In total, over two million Christians visited Israel in 2013, about 60% of the 3.54 million total visitors. Visitors includes one-day and cruise visitors. Tourists refers to those staying more than one night.
Of these Christian tourists, about a half were Catholic (49%); 20% were Protestants (the majority Evangelical ); 28% were Orthodox (mainly Russian Orthodox) and 7% were from other Christian denominations.
About a million (40%) of these Christian tourists defined themselves as pilgrims; about 30% said they were in Israel for sight-seeing and touring and the remainder for other reasons.
The major source countries for incoming Christian tourism are: USA; Russia; Italy Germany; UK; France; Ukraine; Poland; Spain; Brazil. The major source countries for incoming Catholic tourism are: Italy; USA; France; Poland; Germany; Spain; Brazil; UK and Mexico (see chart below). These nine countries represent 65% of all Catholic tourism into Israel.Popular Christian sites among pilgrims
About 40% of all Christian tourists and about 50% of all Catholic tourists define the purpose of their visit as a pilgrimage. The figures below relate to pilgrim tourism.
The most visited regions in Israel in 2013 by Christian pilgrims include:
• 90% of all Christian tourists visited Jerusalem
• 89% visited Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee
• 86% visited Nazareth
• 85% visited the Dead Sea area
• 83% visited Capernaum
• 86% of pilgrims visited Bethlehem.
The most visited sites in 2013 by Christian tourists include:
• over 90% of all pilgrims: Church of the Holy Sepulchre: Via Dolorosa; Western Wall; Mount of Olives
• over 80% of all pilgrims: Church of the Annunciation; Capernaum and Yardenit baptism site
• over 60% of all pilgrims: Qumran and Caesarea
• 86% of all pilgrims visited the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
Characteristics of Christian pilgrims
• Average length of stay: 8 nights (average tourist 8.5 nights)
• 83% visit within framework of an organized tour
• 80% of pilgrims are first-time visitors
• 20% of pilgrims are repeat visitors
• 90% stayed in hotels, of whom 84% stayed in hotels of average standard on HB
• Level of satisfaction 4.5 out of 5, higher than the average tourist in Israel (4.3)Source: Tourism Ministry Inbound Tourism Survey 2013 and Central Bureau of Statistics
The Ministry of Tourism has dedicated websites, Facebook, Youtube and Twitter pages for the Christian communities, with millions of viewers:Catholic pilgrims:
The website www.holyland-pilgrimage.org will be constantly updated with material relevant to the Pope Francis's visit to Israel, including live transmission from Israel during the Pope's stay in Israel.