Israel received 2.1 million visitors between January and June 2018, according to the Israeli Ministry of Tourism. That’s an increase of 19% compared to the same period in 2017 and 26% more than the same period in 2016.
An influx of tourists is certainly good for the economy. Those 2.1 million visitors generated NIS 12 billion for Israel’s economy.
But a tourism boom can also be a nightmare – especially if you’re not prepared.
One of Israel’s biggest problems, according to people in the tourism industry, is that there aren’t enough hotels to accommodate all of the people who want to visit the country. Major tourist sites have lines that stretch on for what seem like a mile. Visiting hours are inconvenient. Lack of proper restroom facilities is causing another issue entirely. Lack of parking causes tour buses to drop off passengers in the middle of the road, forcing them to walk miles to their destination.
At major tourist sites, it’s not uncommon to see people pushing and shoving each other to get ahead in line. With all of that chaos, injuries are common, and the risk of public liability claims soars.
People who work in the tourism industry say some hotels are charge outrageous prices due to the lack of accommodations in major cities.
Part of the problem is that investors don’t want to build hotels in a country that’s susceptible to regular outbreaks of violence. The other part of the problem? Bureaucracy. It can take a decade to build a hotel in the country from start to finish.
The Tourism Ministry says it is working on subsidizing investments in hotels and pushing for legislative changes that cut the amount of time required to build a hotel.
Many of the key Holy Land’s key tourist sites are just not fit to accommodate such large numbers of tourists. Of course, that’s part of what draws people to the Old City, but it can be challenging to see and enjoy these tourist sites when they are overrun by people. It used to take about an hour to get into the Holy Sepulchre. Now, it can take two-and-a-half hours or more.
Tourist sites close around 4 or 5 pm, which makes it really difficult for tourists to get in and see the sites they want to see.
Public transportation is usually not a good option if you want to get to the major tourist sites. At this point, there isn’t even a bus that goes from the airport to Tel Aviv.
Tourism is certainly a good thing for Israel. But it can also cause problems because the country simply isn’t prepared for an influx of tourists. Lack of parking, poor operating hours and lack of accommodations can create negative experiences for visitors and make the lives of tourist workers harder. Israel still has some work to do to fix these problems, and there are certainly other, more pressing matters that must be attended to. But to encourage the growth of tourism, things must change to support and promote growth.