Rare is the visitor to Israel who does not make the journey to Jerusalem. In fact, it could be in the running for the city with the greatest pull of all time. People come to see Jerusalem, to feel it, to breathe its air, and just to be. The reasons for the pull are endless, though often based in the rich religious, historical, archeological and cultural heritage on offer.
In 2010, the figures show us, there was an increase of 8 percent in tourism to and within Israel (the total number of visitors rose from 7,536,100 to 8,180,000) and a 20 percent increase to Jerusalem. Some may have stayed with relatives, and there are even day shoppers from Jordan, but many chose hotel accommodations. In all, 1,352,400 people stayed in Jerusalem hotels – compared to 999,000 in Tel Aviv, for example. Still, while 2010 was a record year for Israel where tourism is concerned, 2008 still holds the record number of tourists to the capital.
Most of the city's hotel guests were from abroad – almost a million – they represented a 29 percent increase in hotel occupancy – compared to Israeli hotel guests whose numbers in Jerusalem hotels rose by just 1 percent in 2010, from 354,200 the previous year to 357,100. In all of Israel, the Yearbook tells us, the number of hotel guests from abroad rose by 23 percent (from 2,620,800 to 3,237,000), while the number of Israeli hotel guests rose, again, by only 1 percent (from 4,915,300 to 4,943,000). For domestic tourism, the Red Sea resort city of Eilat still draws by far the largest number of vacationing Israelis – it enjoys 49% of the country’s overnight hotel stays.
And where did all the tourists come from? It emerges that 45 percent were from Europe and 40 percent from the United States (predominantly from the northern and central states of the US), the remainder hailing from a host of countries.
Most of them opted to stay in hotels in West Jerusalem compared to East Jerusalem: in 2010 1,170,100 guests stayed at West Jerusalem hotels (71% of them from abroad) compared to 984,400 the previous year. In East Jerusalem those figures were 182,300 (91% of them from overseas) in 2010, compared to 139,600 in 2009.
So how does this all translate into financial figures? In 2010 the total turnover from hotel stays (foreign and domestic tourism) in Jerusalem was NIS 1.58 billion. And while the city enjoys the largest number of tourists compared to other cities in Israel, it does not quite attain the same turnover, with Tel Aviv earning NIS 1.64b. and Eilat taking first place at NIS 2.14b.