JERUSALEM (Mar. 2)
The slump in tourism to Israel may be over, according to officials of the Ministry of Tourism here. They reported significantly improved figures for the last two months of 1986 and the beginning of 1987. In fact, the Ministry predicts a 20 percent rise in American tourist traffic this year, although tourism from the U.S. and Canada has always lagged behind Europe.
The officials admit that 1986 was a very bad year for tourist traffic in Israel, as in Europe. They attributed it to the rash of terrorist acts, particularly the hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1985, in which American passenger Leon Klinghoffer was murdered.
Overall tourist arrivals to Israel in 1986 amounted to 1.2 million, down 17 percent from 1985, the all-time record year. The figures included passengers from cruise ships who generally spend no more than a day in Israel and sailors from the U.S. Sixth Fleet on shore leave.
Income from tourism is estimated at $950,000 in 1986, a 15 percent drop from the previous year.
The optimism is based on tourism figures for December 1986, which exceeded 100,000. Arrivals from Europe were up 15 percent over December 1985 and arrivals from the U.S. also were higher. The most substantial increase was registered by the resort town of Eilat on the Red Sea, which recorded 63,000 arrivals on direct flights from Europe, 37 percent more than in 1985.
Much of the traffic to Eilat comes on charter flights from northern Europe and the Scandinavian countries, attracted by the warm, sunny climate. Europe is the main source of Israel’s tourism, accounting for more than 60 percent of the visitors annually. The U.S. supplies 22 percent. About 224,000 American tourists came to Israel in 1986, down 48 percent from 1985. Americans arriving in cruise ships numbered 1,800 last year, compared to more than 27,000 in 1985.