|By Dalia Tal, Globes, Tel Aviv,
IsraelMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Aug. 28, 2007 - Israel's tourism industry has finally emerged from the shadow of the Second Lebanon War last summer. Figures released by the Israel Hotels Association show that tourist numbers and occupancy rates at hotels are now similar to those in the summer of 2005. However, the increase still isn't as high as was expected. Hotel overnights by foreigners and Israelis totaled 2.1 million in July, 4 percent higher than in July 2006, but just 2 percent higher than July 2005.
Hotel overnights by Israelis totaled 1.4 million in July, down 5 percent over July 2006, and 3 percent less than July 2005. Hotel overnights by foreigners totaled 700,000, a 28 percent increase over July 2006, but only 2 percent higher than in July 2005. The room occupancy rate was 67 percent in July, 6 percent higher than in July 2006, and 2 percent less compared with July 2005.
Hotel overnights in Jerusalem totaled 248,000 in July, 22 percent higher than in July 2006, and 14 percent higher than in July 2005. Hotel overnights at the Dead Sea totaled 26,000 in July, 10 percent higher than in July 2006, and 7 percent higher than July 2005.
According to Israel Hotel Association director general Shmuel Zurel, while the number of tourist overnights has risen, it is still less than the number of incoming tourists, which rose 42 percent over 2006. This gap resulted from the entry by tourists, principally those staying at hotels in Sinai, and in Jordan, making one-day trips to Israel.
Zurel stressed that these tourists are a burden on the Israeli economy, since they cause further congestion on roads and overcrowding at key tourism sites, but have minimal expenses, primarily as a result of the fact that they do not stay at local hotels.
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