Some 6,000 Christian friends of Israel from over 100 countries, led by Evangelical community leaders, have arrived in Israel to celebrate the holiday of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles).
Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov will welcome the thousands of Christian visitors to the feast in a special broadcast at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem.
The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is arranging the events surrounding the feast, with assistance from the Tourism Ministry.
The events surrounding the Feast of Tabernacles, which is considered to be the largest single tourist event in Israel, attract thousands of Christian visitors from Brazil, Australia, Bolivia, Canada, Chile , Austria, India, Italy, Nigeria, Finland, Norway and other countries.
During the course of the week, the tourists will visit the major Christian holy sites around the country and will participate in seminars, lectures, workshops and the Jerusalem March on Thursday.
The visit by some 6,000 pilgrims is expected to add tens of thousands of overnight stays in hotels, and an estimated overall injection of about NIS 25-30 million (about $6.5-7.5 million) into the economy, including restaurants, sites, shopping, etc.
The Tourism Ministry, which is offering assistance with the convention, will operate an information booth at the International Convention Center, distributing material and offering tourist information as necessary.
In 2011, more than 25% of all incoming tourists came for the purpose of pilgrimage, and 42% of these were Christians. While the average daily expenditure of a tourist stands at $142, tourists who arrive on a pilgrimage spend an average of $175 a day.
The Tourism Ministry, which identified the vast potential inherent in Christian tourism, invests millions of shekels a year on marketing Israel among the various Christian communities around the world.
In order to offer focused and professional market segmentation, the ministry recently established a Religious Tourism Desk designed to improve marketing for this target group, in addition to developing new itineraries and touring routes in Israel (such as the Gospel Trail) to meet the specific needs of the Christian pilgrim.