While the dust is still settling from Donald Trump’s surprising victory, many in Israel’s all-important tourism industry are wondering if there will be a positive impact on tourism to the Jewish State.
Despite a perception in the Evangelical community that the Trump administration will be extremely pro-Israel, it is “too early to tell if the change in the American administration will affect incoming Evangelical Christian tourism in any way,” Israel’s Ministry of Tourism told Breaking Israel News.
David Parsons of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, the organization that brings thousands of Christian tourists each year for the Jerusalem Parade, agreed.
“It is too early to tell how a Trump presidency will impact Evangelical tourism to Israel. Like other visitors to Israel, Christian tourists come here in larger numbers when there is calm in the land, while the numbers tend to go down when there are tensions and terror attacks. I expect stability for Israel as Trump takes office but no one can predict what is next in this region,” Parsons stated.
Tourism is one of Israel’s major sources of income, with a record 3.54 million tourist arrivals in 2013. The largest percentage of tourists come from the United States accounting for 18 percent of all tourists
Christians represent more than half of all incoming tourists to Israel. About a million (40 percent) of these Christian tourists defined themselves as pilgrims, while about 30 percent said they were in Israel for sight-seeing and touring. The largest tourist event of its kind, the annual ICEJ Fest of the Tabernacles draws about 5,000 Christians from around the world to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Sukkot in Jerusalem. This tourism not only brings economic benefit, but it also helps Israel politically.
President Elect Trump was elected partially on the basis of his strongly pro-Israel platform and Evangelicals were strong supporters of Trump. It has yet to be seen if those promises will materialize. He is already being tested on his commitment to his move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It is still too early to determine whether having Trump in the White House will encourage his voters to visit Israel.
One of Israel’s largest tourism providers to Christians, Sar-El, has seen rises and falls in the number of Christian tourists over the years. According to Sar-El’s deputy general manager David Katz, “Evangelical support has continued throughout all periods and I don’t think tourism has much to do with a change in the US administration.”
If a more pro-Israel White House is not responsible for boosting tourism to Israel, what does help increase the numbers?
Travel consultant Elisa Moed of Travelujah explained that the factors driving Christian tourism are multifaceted. “Pro-Israel Evangelical Christians want to come to Israel, and the increase or decrease of this segment is primarily related to economic factors, marketing, and security,” but not Donald Trump.