One of the hottest trends in Israel tourism is the popularity of single-day tour packages, which focus on the most iconic religious, cultural and natural attractions of the country. Under the framework of these package deals, private tour guides take tourists on whirlwind visits to as many sites as can be packed into one day, with just enough time to appreciate each one.
Why are these products so popular? Although the lion’s share of tourists visiting Israel come for at least a week and travel by air, an increasing number are arriving over the land borders or on cruise ships, to spend only one day in the country. Over 3.5 million tourists came to Israel over the course of 2013, with a little over half a million (16%) visiting for only one day. The number of single-day visits has risen by 28% since 2009, according to a recent report by the Ministry of Tourism (downloadable here, as a pdf file in Hebrew).
Tourists who come for the day don’t have time to spend relaxing poolside or taking their time discovering Jerusalem’s Old City alleyways on their own. Instead, they prefer to hire tour guides, to maximize their time so they can see as much as possible of the world-renowned sites that interest them.
According to data provided by GoJerusalem.com, a leading vendor of Israel and Jerusalem tours, the five most popular guided private tour products are as follows.
This tour focuses on the Christian sites of the Old City, passing through the Stations of the Cross and visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The tour usually ends with a walk down to the Western Wall and some time devoted to private reflection and prayer.
A full-day tour all around Jerusalem includes Old City sites as well as Yad Vashem and the Mahane Yehuda market. Specialized tour products such as Segway tours and visits to specific neighborhoods, like Shaarei Chessed, are popular too.
After visiting the Stations of the Cross and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the tour heads to Nativity Circle and Manger Square. The Basilica of the Nativity and the Milk Grotto are followed by a stop at Shepherd’s Field.
Masada provides historical perspective, with the archaeological ruins of the palace of Herod and the story of Jewish heroism in the times of the Great Revolt. The Dead Sea is a testament to Israel’s natural beauty, and spa treatments can help relax tourists before the next adventure.
A visit to Christian holy sites is high on the list for many tourists to the Holy Land. Churches, sites of the miracles performed by Jesus and locations of significant New Testament events are popular destinations.
Although many have wondered to what extent the recent violence between the Israeli military and Hamas will impact the tourism industry, the Ministry of Tourism is adamant that tourism is virtually unaffected.
Photo of a cruise ship docked in Haifa courtesy of the Haifa Municipality Spokesperson’s office