Israel tourism rebounds in July, still well below pre-COVID levels

A woman wears a face mask as she sits by the Mediterranean Sea in Tel Aviv as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions were eased in Israel May 21, 2020 REUTERS/ Amir Cohen

JERUSALEM, Aug 8 (Reuters) - Israeli tourism continued to recover following the COVID-19 pandemic in July although it was 22.6% below its 2019 level, the Tourism Ministry said on Monday.

Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov said he expected the trend to continue this month despite the flare-up in violence on the Gaza frontier over the past few days.

Some 250,000 tourist entries were recorded last month, up from just 49,000 a year earlier when Israel's borders were not fully open. In July 2019, a record year for tourism, the country attracted 323,000 visitors.

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The ministry said that tourism was still down 56% in the January-July period from 2019 but that Israel was on pace for 2.2 million to 2.5 million tourists in 2022.

"The positive trend is continuing, and according to the information we have, this will continue through August," Razvozov said in a statement.

"The events of the last few days related to the operation in Gaza are not expected to impact on the hundreds of thousands of tourists visiting Israel this month," he said.

Palestinian militants from Islamic Jihad fired more than 1,000 rockets at Israel from the Gaza Strip in recent days, while Israeli airstrikes hit Palestinian targets in Gaza. Israel and Islamic Jihad declared a truce late on Sunday, raising hopes of an end to the most serious flare-up on the Gaza frontier in more than a year. read more

Israeli tourism struggled to rebound after a longer and more deadly conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza in 2014.

Tourism in 2019 hit a record high of 4.55 million visitors, contributing 23 billion shekels ($7 billion) to Israel's economy.

($1 = 3.3036 shekels)

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Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Susan Fenton

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