Israel’s Ministry of Tourism (IMOT) has reasons to celebrate. Aside from Israel’s traditional tourists that continue to visit, a new niche market has emerged: Russians.
IMOT records show in 2008, more Russian tourists arrived in Israel than ever before. As a result, the Moscow Municipality-owned company Sun Dream has announced plans to open a $100-million luxury resort at Ein Bokek on the southern shores of the Dead Sea in mid-2009 to meet the demand.
According to IMOT, the 52,500 square-foot hotel will feature 240 guest rooms and suites, two indoor swimming pools, conference rooms, two restaurants, and a helipad. Sun Dream will begin construction within the next few months, increasing the number of guest rooms around the Dead Sea to approximately 4,300.
“The first nine months of this year have already seen 230,000 Russian tourists in Israel, an increase of over 100 percent compared to the same period last year,” Israeli Tourism Minister Ruhama Avraham-Balila said. “With Russia being the third-largest source of incoming tourists to Israel, an additional 240 hotel rooms will help accommodate the increase in visitors to the world’s most famous natural spa.”
IMOT also claimed that the Israel Hotel Association has reported that 763,000 tourists stayed in Israel’s hotels in September. This represents a rise of 49 percent compared to the same month last year.
Further, tourist stays between January and September amounted to 7.6 million, which is a rise of 25 percent compared to the same period in 2007.
With these successes, IMOT said the country is on track to welcome an all-time high of 3 million tourists expected to arrive by the end of 2008.