Tel Aviv is ready for its close-up—and the Israel Ministry of Tourism is giving it to the country’s capital.
For millennia, Israel has been a mecca for religious pilgrims. It only made sense business groups and other travelers gravitated toward Jerusalem. Home to the Western Wall and 25 minutes from the Dead Sea, Jerusalem is where Judaism, Islam and Christianity intersect. It is also now home to the U.S. Embassy, despite ongoing debates about the city’s geographic and religious boundaries. Regardless of regional tension, groups and event attendees find inspiration among the city’s history.
Meanwhile, Tel Aviv has developed its infrastructure for large corporations and other businesses to grow. Rather than making visitors choose between the two, Israel has taken a different approach.
Its “Two Cities, One Break” campaign, launched in 2017, aims for travelers to experience the best of both worlds. The idea is simple: Host a meeting or conference in Tel Aviv and have attendees extend their stay with excursions to famed sites in Jerusalem.
“We decided to think of Israel as a tourism destination outside of being the Holy Land,” explains Amir Halevi, Israel’s director general of tourism.
The numbers back up the proactive strategy. More than 4 million tourists traveled to Israel in 2018—a record. For comparison, Israel hosted 1 million tourists in 1978.
The United States is the clear leader of the pack, with nearly 900,000 Americans making the trek. Israel is looking to grow those numbers by making it easier to make the long flight. In May 2019, United launched a new flight from Washington Dulles International Airport to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport. Also this summer, Delta will add a second flight from New York’s JFK International Airport to Tel Aviv.
“We have wonderful momentum,” says Halevi.