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Israel enjoys strong start to 2018

Israel’s Eastern Mediterranean location puts it in a positive position with relatively short flight times to airports across The Middle East, Europe, Africa & some Eastern Asian countries, and as a result Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport handled an additional 1.6 million passengers in 2017.

The growth of international passenger traffic at Israel’s primary airport is now amongst the fastest of any of the top Middle Eastern location according to CiR’s data hub, Business Lounge. Latest available figures show total departing traffic during the whole of 2017 rose +18%, following a +9% growth through 2016.

Handling 9.9 million international departing passengers in 2017, Tel Aviv ranks as the Middle East’s fifth largest airport behind Dubai, Doha, Abu Dhabi & Jeddah. The increase in international traffic has set a record at the airport with July 2017 breaking the one million passenger barrier for the first time.

Italy (+2.2%) was the only top country destination from Israel not to record double-digit growth. The most popular country destination, USA, saw passenger traffic rise by 11%, boosted by both the addition of flights into Miami, the fifth US city to now have a direct link to Israel which began in November 2017, as well as the doubling of seat capacities by United Airlines on its route into San Francisco.

Whilst organic growth on many existing routes has driven growth in passenger numbers out of Tel Aviv, the establishment of flights to 40 additional airports across 21 countries throughout 2017, bringing the total number of airport destinations to 153, has meant a further 255,000 seats available, accounting for 2.3% of total seats out of Tel Aviv.

A recent marketing campaign encouraged tourists to visit the country through the “Two cities, One break” message, encouraging visitors to combine visits to both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in one trip. Israel welcomed over 3.6 million tourists[1] in 2017, a 25% increase versus 2016, spending an estimated US$5.7 billion. With growth recorded across virtually every nationality, some of the biggest growths have come from Asian passenger arrivals (+43%). The well-publicised desire amongst many Chinese travellers to experience new destinations has seen Israel become ever more popular destination with its deep cultural background and historical heritage appealing to this new breed of Chinese tourists. With visitor numbers up +43% versus 2016 and +142% versus 2015, such growth has translated into an absolute rise of over 60,000 additional Chinese visitors over the past two years.


Forecasts for 2018 point to continued growth from 2017 with seats out of Tel Aviv airport projected to rise by 15%. Europe will remain key to passenger growth, with 80% of available scheduled seats destined for locations throughout the region.

Highest rates of growth are expected in traffic to the MEA region, with 2018 enjoying double-digit growth. Capacities between May to August into the region look set to grow by over +200% versus the same period in 2017 with seats into Egypt, driven by Air Sinai whose sole route operates between Cairo and Tel Aviv, which are forecast to increase by as much as +590%.

The new international airport serving Eilat, Israel’s southernmost city located on the northern tip of the Red Sea, which, once open later in 2018, will have an initial annual capacity of 2 million passengers, rising to 4.2 million once fully operational, will only further enhance Israel’s growing popularity as a tourist destination.

The increases in passenger numbers currently being witnessed at Tel Aviv will also come as welcome news to the new joint venture between Gebr Heinemann and JR Duty Free who, late in 2017, were awarded the tender to operate duty free stores in both terminals 1 and 3 for the next ten years. JR Duty Free has also been awarded the duty free tender to operate stores at the new Eilat airport and with no signs of passenger numbers at Israel’s airport slowing, both retail operations stand to reap the benefits.


NB. PAX Source: CiR Business Lounge | Advanced Analytics Tool - Data based on Scheduled departing international passengers only. Data displayed for nationalities is based on residency through place of ticket purchase

[1] Source: Israeli Ministry of Tourism – figures include day trips & cruise passengers