It looks like Israeli hotels are finally back on the map.
Some 724,000 tourists rented hotel rooms in Israel in July, a 70 percent increase from July 2004, according to the latest figures from the Israel Hotel Association.
Local tourist numbers stayed the same, with some 1.44 million hotel rooms rented to Israeli citizens. The 2.2 million hotel room occupancy for July points to some promising data - a rise of 16 percent over the previous year, and a hotel occupancy rate of 66 percent countrywide.
The greatest gains were for hotel rooms in the capital, Tel Aviv and Tiberias . In Jerusalem, 214,000 hotel stays were recorded for July (up 84 percent over last July) and in Tel Aviv 192,000 hotel stays were recorded (up 80 percent).
Although Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are traditionally the biggest attractions for tourists along with the southern city of Eilat, the largest increase was recorded in Tiberias, at 23,000 hotel room stays, a whopping 94 percent rise over last year.
While Eilat stays represent half of all local tourism figures, Israelis rented 717,000 rooms in Eilat, a figure actually down 4 percent since last year. Tel Aviv, Herzlia, Haifa and Netanya all experienced lower occupancy rates, while Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, Kibbutz guest houses and Tiberias all reported rises.
Still, when comparing Jerusalem figures to Herzliya, Jerusalem had a 59 percent occupancy rate as opposed to Herzlia’s 86 percent. This is likely due to the larger number of hotels in Jerusalem than in Herzliya.
Altogether, from January to July 2005, the IHA reported a 13 percent rise in hotel stays at a figure of 10.4 million rooms rented, with more than a third of that number representing foreign tourists.
Avi Rosenthal, General Manager of the IHA, said the numbers are promising, but not enough. “In order to realize the tourism potential of this place, the number and scheduling of flights to Israel must be upgraded and marketing efforts to target countries must be strengthened," he said.
Tourism Minister Abraham Hirshson said he expects the number of hotel stays in 2005 to reach more than 19 million, according to Tourism Ministry figures.
“These numbers are similar to those in 2000, when tourism to Israel was at an all-time high,” Hirshson said.