Israeli tourism at risk as visitors complain about dirt, pressure

Israel must take action to improve its tourism experience, a senior official warned. 

By Jack Gold, World Israel News

The number of tourists coming to Israel keeps breaking records, with new sources of tourism constantly under development, but many tourists have expressed dissatisfaction recently about their vacations in the Holy Land, Israel Hayom reported Tuesday.

Israel’s tourism industry continued to experience significant growth in 2018, with slightly less than a million (949,000) tourists visiting the country between January and March of this year.

This represents a 30 percent increase over last year’s numbers and 58 percent more than 2016. This influx of holiday travelers and pilgrims injected NIS 4.9 billion into Israel’s economy.

However, Yossi Fattal, director general of the Israel Incoming Tour Operators Association, warned that “the higher the number of tourists in Israel, the less their satisfaction is with the experience of visiting Israel.”

Israel is used to tourism crises connected with too few tourists, but now the country must prepare to deal with an embarrassment of riches — a tourist surplus. The country must upgrade its infrastructure and quality of services, he said.

Fattal describes a gloomy picture of the level of service experienced by tourists in Israel. The tourist experience is deteriorating, starting at the airport waiting in line for passport control, which at the peak hours can last as long as two hours.

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For those who choose to take a taxi from the airport, “we are crossing our fingers,” he quipped.

He described a severe shortage of rooms, while at the same time prices are rising to new and excessive levels. In addition, the main tourist sites suffer from a great deal of congestion, dirt and pressure that harm the tourist’s visit.

In the markets crowded with tourists, there is no standard or supervision regarding the unwarranted prices that are sometimes collected from the tourists by the vendors. Unlicensed guides present themselves as authorized guides, among other issues.

The Israel Incoming Tour Operators Association has received many complaints, he said.

“In the not too distant past, tourists always expressed a desire to return to Israel, but their numbers are dwindling,” Fattal warned.