With over 16 Israel tours on our calendar in 2014, it’s clear that Inspiration—along with our ministry partners—believe the Holy Land to be one of the world’s best travel destinations. We’re not alone. In recent years, international travel statistics have shown tourism to Israel as a growing trend.
This year, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics announced it had reached an all-time record for tourist entries into the country. From 2008 to 2012, the total tourists traveling to Israel averaged 3.2 million a year. The year 2013 saw an all-time high in the number of visitors to Israel, with 3.54 million travelers total, led by tourists from the U.S. An estimated 20% of visitors to Israel come from North America. By 2015, Israel’s Tourism Ministry expects five million travelers to visit the Middle East nation annually.
After five strong years of tourism growth, Israel’s local hotel and construction industry is also booming. The summer of 2013 saw the opening of a new upscale resort in Hephzibah, the 70-room Heiku Resort & Spa Mt. Gilboa, as well as the glitzy Ritz-Carlton Herzliya Marina (110 rooms) and the boutique Hotel Indigo Tel Aviv (also 110 rooms) in the Diamond Exchange District. The five-star, $150 million Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem—being built inside the refurbished outer walls of the city’s famed 1929 Palace Hotel—is scheduled to open its 223 elegant rooms and suites in June of 2014.
Other hotels are in the planning stages of expansions and renovations to accommodate the surge of tourists to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and the surrounding areas. With 5,000 new rooms in various stages of development, Israel estimates it will have soon have added 9,000 more hotel rooms to what had been available in early 2009.
A further example of Israel’s skyrocketing tourism levels is the new international airport now being built 18 kilometers north of Eilat. Projected to open in 2016, the Ilan and Assaf Ramon Airport has been designed to serve around 2 million passengers a year on both domestic and international flights.
Along with our ministry partners, we believe Christian tours to Israel offer one of the most spiritually transformative travel experiences available in life for any believer. The chance to walk where Jesus walked, to pray at the walls of the original temple in Jerusalem, or to consider Christ’s sacrifice within the Garden of Gethsemane—not to mention the opportunity to be baptized in the Jordan River—can add a powerful, tangible dimension to one’s faith.
We’re excited to see the increased number of tourists drawn to Israel for this kind of experience, and continue to be impressed by the country’s dedication to serving their visitors well.