The tourism industry is a significant growth engine for Jerusalem and thus should be promoted. In the last two years, JIIS has undertaken numerous studies aimed at assessing the development of this industry in the city, and seeking ways to advance it. To that end, it devised a set of 11 indicators to measure progress and created database covering a range of topics that fall within the field – from the number of visitors to the city from Israel and abroad, to marketing Jerusalem as a unique "product," cultural festivals as a tool for economic growth, the need for additional lodging options, income from tourism, and more.
The research has been conducted within the framework of the government-initiated Marom Plan for the economic development of Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Development Authority is implementing the plan and JIIS is researching, monitoring and evaluating its progress. JIIS recently released 14 reports
(in Hebrew) spanning this work; the reports will be periodically updated. For example, in one study, the findings show that there is a positive correlation between the marketing of Jerusalem in target countries (in this case, Russia, Germany and Italy) and the number of tourists to the city.
Another study analyzes the growing phenomenon of "day tourism," which has become a problem in Jerusalem: not only does it not contribute much to the local economy, it also harms the tourism experience for other visitors.
Yet another study deals with the issue of overcrowding at tourist sites, particularly in the Old City. This is not an uncommon problem in historic cities – Venice, Barcelona and Bruges are examples. Without appropriate management, the problem can have repercussions on the city, not only for the tourists but the local residents as well. This study includes a series of recommendations for dealing with this unwanted trend.
Two field surveys are included in the latest reports. One was addressed to tour guides and the other to hotel guests. In the former, tourist guides were asked to highlight problems that pertain to their work in Jerusalem and steps that they thought might help to alleviate them. The second survey, a questionnaire distributed in five languages through the city's hotels, assessed tourists' satisfaction with their visit to Jerusalem. They were asked to rate their views on a number of aspects of the city. Both surveys highlighted a number of areas that require improvement.
Other reports cover the level of services available at given sites (accessibility, parking, signage, etc.); how cultural events, such as festivals, can serve as a tourist drawcard; the influence of accommodation location on the tourist's experience; and the development of new markets for attracting tourists to Jerusalem. In this last study, the Far East was assessed, particularly China, which is rapidly putting its stamp on the tourism world, with millions of middle-class Chinese seeking new experiences around the globe. The question is how to add Jerusalem to the desirable destinations of this new and thus far untapped market.
An additional report examined the competition regarding accommodation between Jerusalem and the surrounding Palestinian cities, Bethlehem in particular. It emerges that many people opt for hotels in the Palestinian Authority rather than Jerusalem because they cost less, and there is new investment in some of those places, with many more hotel rooms available today than previously.
All the reports include a number of recommendations for the authorities to consider. The research is being led by JIIS' Israel Kimhi, who notes that tourism signifies one of Jerusalem's most important economic branches. "In addition to being the home of the three monotheistic religions, Jerusalem is a city of culture that has the potential to host many millions of tourists – if it makes the necessary steps to welcome them."