is becoming an increasingly unattractive country for tourists, dropping to the 53rd place on the World Economic Forum's Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report, which was published over the weekend.
The Jewish state fell seven places compared to the 2011 report and 17 places compared to the 2009 report, in which it ranked 36th.
Every two years, the World Economic Forum releases a comprehensive 500-page report, which assesses 140 economies worldwide based on the extent to which they are putting in place the factors and policies to make it attractive to develop the travel and tourism sector.
The Forum is assisted by research institutes around the world, examines a series of indicators and, after processing them, determines the location and attractiveness of the reviewed countries.
Israel 53rd attractive country for tourists (Photo: Shalom Bar-Tal)
The factors reviewed in the report include hotel prices, the cost of an overall holiday package (with flights, hotels, taxes and other expenses), the impact of fuel prices, flight availability, road infrastructure, education and health, nature and heritage sites, and a long series of other indicators.
After weighing all parameters, the Forum determines the overall location of each country in the general competitive index and in regards to each of the factors reviewed in the report.
Switzerland, Germany and Austria were the top performers in the general competitive index, followed by Spain, England, the United States, France, Canada, Sweden and Singapore.
Israel was preceded by countries like Turkey, Bulgaria, Brazil and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and followed by Slovakia, Bahrain, Chile, Oman, Mauritius, Uruguay, Jordan and Argentina.
A breakdown according to indicators put Israel in the same place as in 2009 in terms of air transport infrastructure, and down 18 places in ground transport infrastructure (from 36 to 54).
An improvement was recorded in the government's prioritization of the tourism and travel industry, but in terms of the government's expenditure on the tourism sector Israel fell from the 98th place to the 107th place.
Israeli attitude towards tourists worsened (Photo: Shutterstock)
The leap in fuel prices brought Israel down from the 109th place to the 136th place in the relevant indicator; ticket taxes and airport charges brought the country to the 85th place (from 58th); and hotel prices pushed Israel from the 61st place to the 98th place.
In addition, the purchasing power has dropped and residents' attitude towards foreign victors worsened (68th place compared to 27th in 2009). Israel also fell in the quality of roads, public transportation, port and railroad infrastructure.
On the other hand, concerns about terrorism dropped from the 129th place to the 124th place, and the reliability of police services improved (up from the 76th place to the 48th place).
The drop in other parameters does not necessarily point to deterioration, but it does imply that the situation in other countries improved significantly.
A source in the tourism industry said over the weekend that Israel had become an expensive country for tourists – not just compared to its neighboring countries but also compared to many countries in Europe.
Although 2012 was a record year in tourist entries – 2.885 million arrived for more than one day – the number of tourists increased by just 20% compared to the year 2000, while the number of tourists worldwide jumped by almost 50% during that period (from some 700 million to 1.035 billion).
Fuel prices – 136th place (-27)
Hotel prices – 98th place (-37)
Ticket taxes – 85th place (-27)
Purchasing power – 122nd place (-18)
Attitude of population toward foreign visitors – 68th place (-41)
Quality of roads – 54th place (-9)
Quality of port infrastructure – 86th place (-33)
Quality of railroad infrastructure – 46th place (-6)
Concerns about terrorism – 124th place (5)
Reliability of police services – 48th place (28)
*In brackets: Change compared to 2009 report
The Tourism Ministry said in response to the report, "In areas which fall under the responsibility of the Tourism Ministry, there has been a significant improvement. For example, in terms of the effectiveness of the Israeli brand abroad we went up from 106th place to 73rd place. There was also a nice increase in the government's prioritization of the tourism industry.
"The decline stemms mainly from issues which do not fall under the responsibility of the Tourism Ministry, such as fuel prices, the erosion in the US dollar's buying power and the poorer service given at ports and ground transportation.
"In addition, Israel has failed to relax the visa policy as other countries have done. The drop also stems from the fact that hotel prices went up significantly due to the lack of hotel rooms."