JERUSALEM (JTA) — Taglit-Birthright Israel has contributed more than $535 million to Israel’s economy since the trip’s inception in 2000, the organization said.
The contribution to Israel’s tourism industry comes from providing transportation, lodging, food, training, security, entry to tourist sites and air travel during the free 10-day trips to Israel for Jews aged 18 to 26.
Since the beginning of the project, more than 7,100 groups have come to Israel, filling more than 2.2 million hotel beds and traveling around the country for more than 71,000 days in buses. The participants have spent more than $75 million in gift and souvenir shops, according to Taglit-Birthright.
The organization brought groups that boosted the tourism industry during Operation Cast Lead and the Second Lebanon War.
"In addition to achieving our goals of connecting the Jewish youth to Israel and to their communities, strengthening their Jewish identity and creating a network of support for the country through our alumni, the project has had a major impact on our economy and the tourism sector,” said Gidi Mark, the CEO of Taglit-Birthright Israel.
“Not only is the project contributing to the economy and thus providing employment for thousands of Israelis, but it is also an investment in the future. Many of our participants are not satisfied with visiting Israel only once; they fall in love with the country and return for many more visits, and their enthusiasm affects their families and friends who, in turn, decide to visit. In this way, we also create an infrastructure for Jewish tourism in the years ahead.”
More than 17,000 young Jews from 32 countries will be visiting the country during Taglit-Birthright Israel’s winter 2012 season.
Taglit-Birthright Israel receives a major portion of its funding from the Israeli government.