Of these visitor entries, a record-breaking 346,000 were tourists (staying more than one night), 22% more than May 2013, and 28% and 29% more than May 2012 and 2011, respectively.
Some 292,000 entries were by air, 21% more than May 2013, of which 2,100 arrived on direct flights to Eilat (42% less than May 2013) . Roughly 54,000 tourists came through the border crossings, 27% more than May 2013; 40,000 came through the border with Jordan (35% increase) and about 13,000 through Taba to Eilat (7% more than last May).
About 36,000 entries were recorded by day visitors, 33% less than May 2013. Of these, 9,700 arrived on cruise ships, 31% less than last May. Some 20,000 day visitors arrived by air (16% more than last year) and about 6,100 came via the land crossings (a 72% decrease from last year).
The first five months of the year saw the arrival of 1.5 million visitors to Israel (including day visitors), 7% more than the same period in 2013, 8% more than 2012 and 14% more than 2011. Of these, 1.4 million were tourists, 17% more than 2013 and 16% and 19% more than 2012 and 2011 respectively.
Some 1.2 million entries were by air, 42% less than the same period in 2013 and 2012. 149,000 day visitors entered Israel, 48% less than the same period in 2013. Of these, 45,000 arrived on cruise ships (a 51% decrease); 66,000 came through the border crossings (a 46% decrease) and about 29,000 entries were by air (a 3% increase).
"The first five months of 2014 bring new tourism records and upward trends," said Tourism Minister Dr. Uzi Landau. "We hope that the record for incoming tourism into Israel will be broken this year again.
"The recent visit of Pope Francis led to a significant spike in incoming tourism, alongside the marketing work of the ministry in increasing Christian tourism, as well as cultural tourism. Pride Week will also bring gay tourism into Israel, for the marches and festivals. Those that come to Israel will discover a country not only blessed with so many holy sites, but also spectacular landscapes, rich in history, culture and night life."
Due to a decrease in tourism to Eilat, an inter-ministerial committee has been established to encourage tourism and flights into the resort.
Tourism Ministry Director-General Amir Halevy explained that "Eilat is a significant tourism resort and we must be primed to match the resort's development to the changes in the local and international tourism market.
"The Tourism Ministry has invested over NIS 100 million (about $29 million) in Eilat in recent years, in addition to the tens of millions of shekel in marketing the resort around the world. Now is the time for full cooperation between all the relevant tourism bodies to ensure that we move forward with the resort."
Halevy and Transportation Ministry Director-General Uzi Yitzhaki have appointed an inter-ministerial committee which will examine ways to expand the number of international flights into Eilat, to diversify the tourism product, to provide solutions for the overcrowding in summer and to balance out across the year the number of tourists and visitors to the resort.
The committee is entitled to consult with experts in the field of transportation and hotels and will present its findings in five months time – on October 31, 2014.
The committee, which will be chaired by Deputy Director of the Tourism Ministry's Marketing Administration Pini Shani, was established in order to match the city's marketing and transportation to the dynamic characteristics of the tourism market in Israel and internationally.
One of the latest factors to adversely impact on tourism to Eilat is the Open Skies policy that facilitates overseas vacations for many more Israelis as a result of lower airfares.