Since arriving in Israel, I've taken an interest in Israeli tourism, mostly because I'm aware of the image that the media portrays of Israeli versus the reality of what it actually looks like and feels like to be here. Most people who come to Israel do indeed find the ancient sites and roaming deserts that they anticipated to find; however, they are often surprised by the modernity throughout the remainder of this small country.
That is why I'm happy to announce that this year, 2011, shows a trend for breaking records in the Israeli Tourism Industry. According to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the first half of 2011 (from January to June) has already broken a record with 1.6 million visitors having entered the country, more than any year before. Specifically, in the month of June alone, Israel welcomed 262,000 visitors which is a 1% increase from June 2010 and a whopping 25% increase from June 2009. Thus, the state of affairs is moving in the right direction. A large number of these visitors arrived in Israel either via cruise ship (showing that cruises are more likely to visit Israel this year than in previous years) and via plane directly into the resort town of Eilat (showing that this leisure town marks high up on the list for Israeli tourism). See the article here for further details.
Also recently, I located both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv on the list of the World's Best Cities in Travel & Leisure magazine. Jerusalem was proud to take home the #2 spot and Tel Aviv the #3 spot for the World's Best Cities in the Middle East/Africa region. Cape Town snagged the #1 spot from Jerusalem by just 1/3 of a percent, which really shows the progress these Israeli cities have made in recent years. To see the rest of the list, please check out this article here. With regions aside, Jerusalem took home the #11 spot for Best City Worldwide and Tel Aviv came in at #29. For the full article, visit this site here.
Additionally, in a recent Gallup Poll, they did a worldwide survey to investigate the world's most thriving countries. In today's economy, as we know, it's not easy to come by a thriving economy. Nonetheless, Israel actually managed to place quite high up on this worldwide list, snagging spot # 7, in cahoots with the likes of Denmark, Canada, Sweden, Venezuela, Finland and Australia. Not too bad if you ask me. To see this article, please click here.
Lastly, I just came across an interesting article recently that talked about Israel's bustling high tech scene. It might surprise you to learn that Israel, "despite being the 100th smallest country in the world, which can fit into Europe 459 times, has the highest number of companies listed on the NASDAQ after America." Israel also has the highest number of high tech companies (hovering around 3,500 companies) ranging from internet companies to software solutions. This is the highest per capita home to high tech companies, making Israel the second "Silicon Valley" of the world, if you will. Google, Microsoft and Intel have all chosen to have their research and development headquarters centered here in Israel. For being a young country of only 63 years, the high tech here has definitely made its mark with a worldwide impact. See the full article online here.
There are other categories that Israel has also ranked highly in, but a little blog post will not be able to tell it all. Israel (and Tel Aviv specifically) is often ranked in the top 10, if not top 5, for most "gay friendly" cities of the world. Additionally, I've read articles about Israel, of all countries, being ranked highly for in-vitro fertilization procedures on a worldwide scale. Israel, at just 63 years old, has also been home to the prideful inventions and discoveries of several of the world's cherished items, including the USB flash drive, electronic dictionaries, laser keyboards, Babylon online translator, cherry tomatoes, drip irrigation system, solar water heating, energy towers, the epilator, instant messaging software, and a range of tanks and anti-ballistic missiles. The list goes on. Quite an achievement for a young country!
As you can see, 2011 has been a great year for Israeli tourism and overall, Israel is on its way to achieving great things in record time. I look forward to seeing what else the future has in store for this young and eager country.