The number of visitors to Israel dropped dramatically in October, the first full month of the deadly Israel-Palestinian violence, according to official figures published Sunday. "The number of tourists who arrived by air in October is down 40 percent, seasonally adjusted, compared with the average for July to September 2000," the ministry said in a statement.
The number of tourists who arrived by air sank to 112,000 in October, seasonally adjusted, compared with 168,000 in October 1999, the only figures for which the tourism ministry gave a year-on-year comparison.
A total of 2.45 million people, including tourists, visited Israel in the January to October period, including 166,300 in October alone, it said, without giving figures for the same period a year earlier.
The Palestinian uprising flared after a visit on September 28 by hardline Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon to the al-Aqsa mosque compound inside Jerusalem's walled Old City, a hotly contested site holy to both Muslims and Jews.
Since then, more than 280 people have been killed, most of them Palestinians.
The United States, the biggest market for Israel, last month issued a travel warning urging its citizens to defer all travel to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza because of a "heightened threat of terrorist incidents."
Israel was hoping for the number of tourists to swell to 3.2 million in 2000, with pilgrims expected to follow in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II who toured the region in March.
But the figures are now seen well below three million, and the tourism ministry expects the industry to suffer losses of around half a billion dollars in the final quarter of the year. — (AFP, Jerusalem)
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)