2.5 million tourists visited Israel in the period Jan-Nov 2009, just 11% less than the same period last year. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, during November alone, 250,600 tourists visited Israel, 4% less than Nov 2008. The CBS statistics also show that the growth in the number of tourists arriving aboard cruise ships continues, with 9,300 arriving in November (3 times more than Nov 2008). The Tourism Minister noted that the statistics testify to the continuing trend of recovery from the economic crisis and this can also be seen in the unprecedented demand from entrepreneurs to invest in hotels.
37 entrepreneurs recently replied to the Tourism Ministry's invitation for grant allocations to establish new hotels and to return buildings once used as hotels to their former use. The Tourism Ministry allocated 300 million NIS to providing grants for entrepreneurs within the framework of the 2009-2010 work plan for this dual purpose. An extra 100 million NIS will be allocated to this program next year in line with demand.
For the first time, the program allows entrepreneurs to receive a grant for converting buildings previously used as hotels back to their former status as well as refurbishing old hotels and, in addition, improves the efficiency of the grant application procedure. In accordance with the Law for the Encouragement of Capital Investment in Israel, the Tourism Ministry offers a higher level of participation: 20% of the total investment excluding land costs. The grant requests are currently under review in accordance with the criteria redefined to ensure a more efficient procedure.