Marketing blitz fails to stop slide in tourism to Israel

Israel’s expensive campaign aimed at drawing more tourists from Europe has not worked.

Tourism to Israel fell again in 2016, continuing a negative trend that began with the 2014 assault on Gaza that left more than 2,200 Palestinians, including 550 children, dead.

Figures from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics show that the expensive efforts to brand the country as a fun, carefree destination, especially for Europeans, are failing.

Overall, the number of visitors to Israel last year dropped by 1.2 percent. This comes after even sharper drops in previous years – 4.4 percent in 2015 and 8.2 percent in 2014.

Big budget

In December, the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz reported that Israel’s tourism ministry “was granted its biggest marketing budget ever in the past year as it tried to change Israel’s image as a travel destination and expand the range of tourism offerings.”

The flagship “Two Cities, One Break” campaign was directed at European tourists to attract them to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

It cost more than $23 million, but ministry sources told Haaretz that “the campaign fell flat.”

Israel has also brought D-list celebrities over on free junkets in the hope that their social media postings would draw visitors.

But the number of visitors from Israel’s biggest market, Europe, fell 6.5 percent last year compared with 2015.

The largest number of visitors to Israel comes from France – and those numbers fell from 300,000 in 2015 to 293,000 last year.

There were 18,000 fewer visitors from Germany – a drop of nine percent. The number of visitors from Russia plummeted from 414,000 to 285,000.

Israel did make up some of its losses in Asia: it hosted 86,000 tourists from China, compared with 52,000 in 2015. It also saw about 37,000 more visitors from North America, mostly the United States.

Israel’s woes are not unique: Turkey, which suffered a military coup attempt in July and has been beset by horrific bombing and shooting attacks, saw tourist visits plummet by 21 percent last year.

Egypt continues to see double digit declines in visitors.

But a general sense of danger due to violence in the region is not the whole story.

Jordan managed to buck the trend, recording an increase in tourist arrivals of 2.6 percent in 2016, according to its tourism ministry.

Jordan attracted 3.8 million visitors, compared with just over three million to Israel.

Mixed message, harsh reality

Israel tries to market itself as distinct from the rest of the region – a gay-friendly outpost of “Western” civilization and fun in a tumultuous neighborhood.

But this branding is undermined by the fact that Israel is usually in the headlines because of its brutal occupation and aggressive colonization of Palestinian land, violence in the streets of the cities it is hoping tourists will visit, the racist declarations of its politicians and its underhanded efforts to sabotage the nonviolent boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.

Indeed, Israeli leaders continue to insist that the country is beset by dangers that could “wipe out every Israeli.” While this line is aimed at gaining political sympathy, it hardly makes it an enticing place for people who want to have a good time.

Meanwhile, destinations in Southern Europe, especially Spain, are smashing tourism records.

Incidentally, there’s another notable trend in Spain: since the 2014 attack on Gaza, more than 50 Spanish cities have declared themselves “free of Israeli apartheid.”




Well done, Jordan.

Most up to date source I could find on the net refer to 2015. The Jordan Times reports 2.5 million came from the Arab world (particularly from KSA) Europeans down by 20.5 per cent to 510,000 from 642,000, China: 23,000, US: 161,000 and rest of Asia: 234,000, 16% lower than the 279,000 visitors in 2014

As you report, tourism is having a hard time in the region what with instability, violence etc.


Come to Israel, face the intimidating questions and harassment at our airport, see us mow the lawn in Gaza at a hilltop nearby , and help us continue our occupation for another 60 years. We are proudly aided and abetted by the good old USA.


Hopefully the combination of boycotts and future sanctions will serve to squeeze the life out of the Zionist state.


For many years, Israel successfully promoted itself as a sober, almost puritanical country where serious-minded visitors could immerse themselves in an egalitarian (ahem) society through cultural activities such as archaeological tours and attendance at lectures. Today the place is touted as a palace of gilded sin catering to the most jaded of appetites. But the ultimate personal indulgence consists in sampling these pleasures in an atmosphere of slave-like oppression. Fortunately, it seems fewer people these days want to experience as part of their holiday package the joy of membership in a master race.


As Naomi Klein once said, "Who wants to visit a country with the personality of Dick Cheney?"


No -- a country with the personality of Netanyahu is sufficient to steer folks to other destinations.
Why would anyone want to be steeped in the poison of racial supremacism, which is all that Israel represents? This is a country that makes a hero out of a cold blooded, cowardly killer -- that guy who shot the Palestinian in the head. Poison.


Ali's article adds to the continue case that Israel's image around the world, generally, is permanently scarred. The word is out. Unfortunately, the word hasn't gotten to the White House or the power centers of Europe yet. Seems they are motivated by other things.


I naively visited Israel as an add-on to a European vacation last November. I couldn't believe the gauntlet everyone had to go through to get a visa at the airport - the worst I've ever encountered. I took side trips to Egypt and Jordan and on reentry to Israel was pulled out of busy lines, interrogated, patted down and my luggage and purse dumped both times. The worst was the Jordanian border where it took 2 1/2 hours to get through a mostly empty crossing, finally released after the border had been closed for an hour and was very lucky to find a taxi in the dark - no buses, etc. Who would want to go to such an unwelcoming country? Gives one a sense of what Palestinians go through daily.


"The largest number of visitors to Israel comes from France – and those numbers fell from 300,000 in 2015 to 293,000 last year."
I live in France and am sad but not surprised at these numbers, as all the Parties and media are Zionist supporters and the laws against BDS and other "antisemitic acts" are in force. At least there was a small reduction in 2016.


They are of course promoting the wrong things --- happens when you do not use professionals!

Israel! We guarantee to show you what you can see nowhere else!

Tours through Gaza --- see the effects of oppression for over 60 years!
See where weapon systems are regularly tested on real live (semi) humans!
For a modest price, try your hand at killing a kid, a woman, an unarmed male'
Totally safe!
Something milder?
Experience a community where 20/25% of the population are second class citizens.
See how the low lives are kept in their places.

Go on security patrols: See eighteen/nineteen year olds let loose without oversight or fear of punishment reach the depth of humanity.

See brutality, rapes, murders committed right there before your very eyes.

And this is just a taste!

Israel, where all of the above can be seen without any politically correct restrictions!

Just a short, comfortable flight from Europe, only a little longer from the US.

Note: We regret that trophy heads cannot be taken due to international pressure.


Or you could see spectacular fireworks as the Israeli airforce bombs a refugee camp called Gaza


This was a good and interesting, report. It looks like civilization hasn't died in Spain, the way it has in Israel. Good. (But nazism has spread and intensified throughout Europe.) However, I was angered to read another article here, by Nesma Seyam, that looked at the continuing efforts by Israel to annex Gazan coastal waters, the same way it's annexing non Israeli Palestine, namely via disappearing the people in the region. Ilan Pappé and Noam Chomsky wrote "Gaza In Crisis," and in that book, on pages 108 & 109, Chomsky notes that, in regard to the discovery by the BG Group of gas in Gaza's coastal waters in 2000, "It is hard to suppress the thought that the Gazan invasion may be related to the project of the stealing these valuable resources from Palestine, which cannot take part in the negotations" over how to exploit the discovery.

I cannot imagine why every single adult in Gaza doesn't know things like this. I just can't. If Noam Chomsky can tell the world, in his books (this section of the book is actually an essay Noam wrote in 2009 titled "Exterminate All The Brutes: Gaza 2009," which is available online. -, then how is it that Gazan adults aren't being told things like this? From Seyam's article: "“The last 10 years have been the worst,” he said. “I have no idea why the Israeli authorities designate fishing limits if they are intent on harassing fishermen working within the limits."" Seyam was quoting Marwan al-Saidi.


"Since the 2014 attack on Gaza, more than 50 Spanish cities have declared themselves “free of Israeli apartheid.”
Happy to notice that tourism in Spain is smashing records! Hurray for lovely Spain!!


I support the BDS, but don't think there's anything wrong with traveling to Israel. I've been to a lot of countries with governments which I find morally reprehensible, yet meeting the people living there helps build bridges. If I had listened to what people said and hadn't visited Iran then I wouldn't have met my amazing wife. Since she's Iranian we can't visit Israel, but even with the immigration hassle we'd receive, we'd make the tip just to meet those Israeli's (Jewish, Arab or whatever) who are ashamed of or just ignorant about their monsterous government. Total isolation and hatred won't stop isolation and hatred. Visit Israel and find the time and place to express your views, talk to people, make friends and build bridges. We wish we could.


It looks very much as if most Israelis who are ashamed of their violent government have already left. You can find them living in numerous locales across the globe, in the form of a new Jewish diaspora. As for wanting to meet Israelis ignorant of the nature of that government, you'll have a largely fruitless journey. Just look at the composition of the Knesset. And the mass media. Israelis are well aware of their government's actions and direction. The simple truth is, they approve (though many believe even harsher measures are warranted against Palestinians).

Everything you wrote belies the claim that you support the BDS movement. In particular, the line about building bridges is straight out of the current edition of the hasbara handbook. Because we wouldn't want Israel to feel isolated. That would be so BDSsy.


Unlike countries that oppose Israel and does not let Israelis enter in Israel a person with a passport of "enemy" country can enter regardless of his state policies. It might take some time at the entry site but possible nonetheless.