Israel recorded some 302,000 visitor entries in March 2014, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics. This figure is similar to March 2013, when visitors were arriving in advance of the Passover period, which began last year in late March.
The March 2014 figure is 4% more than February 2012 and 10% higher than March 2011, which are more suited as related to the time of year when Passover and Easter fell.
Of these visitor entries, 284,000 were tourists (staying more than one night), 13% more than March 2013, and 14% and 13% more than March 2012 and 2011 respectively. This is an all-time record for the first three months of the year.
A sharp decrease (more than half) was recorded in the numbers of cruise and day visitors, which accounts for the slight increase in visitors, as opposed to the higher increase in tourist entries.
Some 245,000 entries were by air, 12% more than March 2013, of which 10,200 arrived on direct flights to Eilat (1% more than March 2013). Some 39,000 tourists came through the border crossings, 23% more than March 2013; 32,000 came through the border with Jordan (34% increase) and about 6,000 through Taba to Eilat (15% more than last February).
About 19,000 entries were recorded by day visitors, 63% less than March 2013. Of these, 7,000 arrived on cruise ships, 70% less than last March. 10,000 day visitors arrived via the land crossings (61% decrease on last year) and about 2,200 by air (21% less than last year).
Some 776,000 visitors arrived in Israel in the first three months of 2014, 3% more than the same period in 2013, 5% more than 2012 and 3% more than 2011. Of these, 705,000 were tourists, 17% more than 2013 and 11% and 10% more than 2012 and 2011 respectively.
About 603,000 entries were by air, 15% more than the same period in 2013. Some 70,000 day visitors came through the border crossings, 53% less that the same period in 2013, of whom about 20,000 arrived on cruise ships. Roughly 44,000 came through the border with Jordan (38% decrease) and about 6,000 entries were by air (25% decrease).
"The year 2014 began with the momentum of a record-breaking year for incoming tourism in 2013," said Tourism Minister Dr. Uzi Landau. "The Tourism Ministry is working intensively to constantly improve the quality of service, to promote tourism projects, to improve the tourism product and to market Israel widely and effectively throughout the world.
"I wish all our visitors, from Israel and overseas, a happy Passover and invite them to take advantage of the holiday and tour our beautiful country."
Tourism Ministry Director-General Amir Halevi said, "With this rate of growth, the shortfall in hotel rooms will increase and lead to increased prices. Given the growth in tourism, we will turn to the Finance Ministry and request increased budgets for hotel construction, so that we are able to receive the wave of tourists that are coming to Israel.
"We are also working to ensure a range of accommodation options, with the establishment of camping and caravanning lots. We are also working to ensure that it no longer takes 10 years to build a hotel in Israel."