The most tourists arrived from the United States (610,000) and the second most from Russia (590,000). Total tourism output this year is estimated at NIS 36 billion (about $9 billion), 4% more than in 2011.
Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot provides more details:
58% was Christian tourism, 23% Jewish tourism.
62% of tourists visited Israel this year for the first time.
29% defined the purpose of their visit to Israel as a pilgrimage, 24%were touring and sightseeing, 9% visited for recreation. In total 62% defined the purpose of the visit as tourism. 20% to visit friends and relatives, 12% for business and conferences.
75% of tourists stayed in hotels, 16% with relatives / friends, 5% youth and Christian hostels and 4% owned or rented apartments.
Jerusalem had the most tourists, with Tel Aviv and the Dead Sea registering the second and third most visits.
Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov said the data “reflect the achievements of the professional and hard work of the last three years.”
Israel’s strong trade ties with Canada received a boost with the signing of two separate agreements in Ottawa on Tuesday night.
The two countries signed an agreement on customs cooperation, committing to share information on trade and assist each other in the fight against smuggling.
They also upgraded the existing Double Tax Avoidance Treaty.
The agreements were signed by Miriam Ziv, Israel’s ambassador to Canada, and Vic Toews, Canadian Minister of Public Safety. A number of Israeli representatives attended the signing, including Tax Authority Director Doron Arbeli and Deputy Finance Minister Yitzhak Cohen.
Arbeli said the agreement, together with the 1996 Free Trade Agreement, would create a comfortable “platform” for Israeli firms to do business in Canada, and vice-versa. He pointed out that Israel has 33 such customs agreements, including one with the European Union.
Bilateral trade between Israel and Canada rose 5 percent in 2011 to $1.25 billion. Israeli exports to Canada stood at $803 million, around 64% of trade between the two countries.
The Israeli economy is expected to grow by 3.5% in 2013, according to the Finance Ministry’s official growth forecast for the next two years released Sunday evening.
The updated forecast, which will serve as the basis for the next state budget, is 0.5% higher than estimates voices by Treasury officials six months ago and the Bank of Israel’s recent growth forecast.
According to the new forecast, in 2014 the economy is expected to grow even more – by 3.9%.
The Treasury’s forecast for 2013 is even more optimistic than an estimate voiced by Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer’s just last week. In an interview to CNN international business correspondent Richard Quest, Fischer said that in light of the renewed financial crisis in Europe, he expects the Israeli economy to grow by 3% next year.
The central bank is expected to release its updated growth forecast next week, along with the interest rates for January.
A senior Treasury official estimated Sunday evening that part of the economy’s growth in the next two years would come from natural gas proceeds, as commercial production is set to begin ahead of May 2013. Natural gas proceeds are expected to contribute some 0.8% to the 2013 growth rate, and about 1% in 2014.
According to the official, natural gas proceeds will have a positive effect on the State’s income tax. Although in the coming year the State’s income from natural gas is expected to grow by less than NIS 1 billion (about $260 million), as of 2014 it will grow significantly.
The detailed economic forecast, which also includes additional economic indicators, such as the income forecast, the size of the state budget deficit and the unemployment rate, will be released by the Treasury ahead of the 2013 budget discussions – after the formation of the new government.
This morning, Google officially opened its second Campus in the Israeli city. Dubbed a “one-floor event & community space and pre-accelerator program”, Google Campus TLV will cater to local early-stage startups and developers with tech talks, events, hackathons and whatnot.
The space measures 1,500 square metres in total.
The TLV Campus space will also feature a “device lab” that will give developers the chance to try out projects on a fairly wide range of smartphones and tablets, and entrepreneurs will get access to Google’s teams and other experts.
In addition, Google is working with existing incubators and accelerator programs to bring their startups to Campus for a “pre-accelerator initiative” dubbed Launch Pad, a two-week bootcamp for more than 100 startups each year.
Google’s Campus in Tel Aviv will be co-managed by Amir Shevat, Developer Relations Manager, and Eyal Miller, New Business Development Principal at Google Israel.
“It is easier to be an entrepreneur in Israel than in Europe,” states Edouard Cukierman, French-born founder and chairman of the largest investment team in Israel. “But it’s easier to raise money in Europe for an IPO.”
That simple evaluation underlies the successful strategy of Cukierman & Co. Investment House, which since 1993 has been involved in raising about €4 billion mainly for Israeli startups and mature companies.
Cukierman, 47, spoke with ISRAEL21c days before the 10th Go4Europe Conference in Tel Aviv, the biggest event organized by an investment bank in Israel. Through this venue, Cukierman & Co. promotes cross-continental relationships in high-tech, biotech and green-tech.
“The first edition, in 1997, had 50 participants, while last year we had 1,200 including 400 that came especially from Europe,” he relates. “Every year we have more and more people interested in being exposed to Israeli technology and investment opportunities.”
While Israeli startups typically set their sights on North America, Cukierman points out that Europe was Israel’s first trading partner and is still the biggest world market in terms of purchasing power parity.
“If you look at the number of IPOs and funds raised through IPOs in Europe since 2005, more money was raised in Europe than in the US. Yet almost no Israeli investment bank had been looking at that market.”
The race for Israeli know-how: Many large global companies are looking for innovation, a partner in whom they can invest and with whom they can cooperate. Israel is one of the global centers that attract large companies and investors, and Invest in Israel is the agency that makes these connections.
Among other factors, thanks to the agency’s work, Israel reached $11 billion in international direct investments in 2011. Last week, on the backdrop of Operation Pillar of Defense and hundreds of missiles on Israel’s south, Swiss bank Pictet, one of the top private banks in the world, announced it was expanding its activities in Israel. This decision displays Israel’s investment potential, even during such times.
The investment promotion center at the Ministry of Industry Trade and Labor, led by Oded Distel, is the government agency responsible for attracting new international investors and providing them with support. The agency locates potential investors, facilitates their visits to Israel and provides them with assistance and direction in any way needed.
The staff of the center works closely with the Ministry’s economic attaches in order to identify international companies that are looking for a specific technology, an investment opportunity or a place to open an R&D center. At the same time, Invest in Israel identifies what Israel can offer to the world, and in this way, international investors are approached. This is how many doors are opened for Israeli industry.
Quite a bit of work is done in order to present Israeli innovation to the world. “We brand the State of Israel in a business sense as an origin of innovation and an investment destination,” says Distel in an interview with Ynet.
Distel described the process of bringing an international investor to Israel and marketing Israeli industry around the world.
“The process is long and demands a lot of concentration and daring from the international investor. As opposed to selling a product, investments demand higher levels of risk and dedication. We deal with some people who have never been to Israel and have outdated and irrelevant ideas about Israel.”
Today, at least 260 R&D centers of international companies are located in Israel including multinationals such as IBM, Microsoft, Google, Intel and others. Thanks to foreign investments in the Israeli market, many jobs have been created along with a better managerial and business culture.
“Investments add a new dimension to Israel’s employment opportunities and bring the global market closer to Israel,” says the center’s director.
In the contemporary world, which makes greater use of the digital space, there is growing probability that a young company could be successful on a global scale. Such tools are of great use to Israeli industry, which is known for high levels of innovation and creativity, on the one hand, and by a certain distance from the global market, on the other.
According to Invest in Israel, most of the companies active in Israel are from the US and a few are from Europe. It is likely that in the near future we will see many European and Asian companies opening subsidiaries in Israel and providing jobs for Israelis.
“More and more global companies recognize the fact that Israel is a source of innovation and technological breakthroughs,” explains Distel.
The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor’s message to international companies investing or acquiring companies is to continue to operate here. Distel points out that as opposed to in the past when there was a feeling that Israeli companies were looking for the quickest possible exit route, the trend has shifted in the direction of cooperative ventures and investments with a view to the future and a search for true connection that will provide mutual benefit to both parties.
The inclination is to create joint ventures that will take full advantage of the abilities and advantages of each of the partners and will serve the needs of both sides, including the national interest of the State of Israel.