Over three million tourists have visited Israel in 2010 so far, breaking the previous record for tourist entries.
Israel marked the milestone by welcoming tourist number 3,000,001, a Brazilian pastor who arrived in Israel from Sao Paolo on Monday afternoon, in a celebratory reception at Ben Gurion Airport, attended by Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov.
Lucky number 3,000,001 arrives (Photos: Yoav Glazner)
"There is a bit of excitement in reaching this landmark," Misezhnikov said. He mentioned that it is fortuitous that the tourist arrived on a flight from Brazil, where Israel has launched a major marketing campaign.
The lucky tourist, a member of a delegation of 50 evangelists that arrived on an El Al flight, was chosen in a lottery. He was awarded a Hanukkah menorah and a somewhat more prestigious prize: A six-day vacation in Israel, to be used over the following year.
Waiting for El Al flight LY 042
The Tourism Ministry estimates that the tourist volume will reach an all time high of 3.4 million by the end of 2010 - 700,000 more tourist than in 2009 and 400,000 more than in 2008, when the previous record was set.
Not everyone in the Israeli tourism industry are impressed with the numbers; Shmuel Zurel, director-general of the Israel Hotel Association, said that the data includes visitors who pass through Israel on their way to vacations in neighboring nations, and might have a negative impact on the market.
Zurel said these visitors overload Israel's infrastructure, and added that "Israel is turning into a playing field for its neighbors without contribution to the market."
- Follow Ynetnews on Facebook