JERUSALEM, Israel - Newly released statistics by tourism ministry officials showed a 36 percent rise in visitors to Israel between January and October 2008, compared with the same eight months in 2007.
October set a new record of 302,000 visitors, surpassing the previous monthly high of 292,000 tourists, set in October 1999, when the tourism sector's expectations were at a peak.
Those hopes were dashed the following July when the late PLO chief Yasser Arafat rejected then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak's offer at the second Camp David summit, spawning the second intifada (armed Palestinian uprising) two months later in September 2000.
During the next four years, frequent suicide attacks by Palestinian terrorists in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and other cities and towns, knocked the bottom out from under the tourism industry.
In 2005, the ministry increased marketing efforts abroad to inject new life into the derailed tourism sector, and their efforts have paid off.
Tourism ministry officials, hopeful that the trend will continue in 2009, welcomed Delta Airlines' recent addition of four new nonstop flights between New York and Tel Aviv, representing 4,000 seats monthly.
"Delta's decision is an important expression of faith in Israel's tourism ministry," Tourism Minister Ruhama Avraham said.
Source: israel national news