Muslim tourists flock to East Jerusalem

The number of Muslim tourists heading to Israel is on the increase, with East Jerusalem a primary beneficiary.

The number of Muslim tourists heading to Israel is – perhaps surprisingly – on the increase, with East Jerusalem, generally favoured by Jewish and Christian travellers, a primary beneficiary.

Statistics from the Tourism Ministry of Israel show that while Muslims still only make up 2.8 per cent of the overall number of travellers heading to the country, the numbers are notably increasing. In 2015, approximately 75,000 Muslim tourists travelled to Israel, while in 2016 there were 87,000 and in 2017 the number rose to 100,000, with Jordan, Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia notable source markets.

“Ten or 15 years ago, there were barely any Muslim tourists coming to Israel,” commented Aziz Abu Sarah, co-founder of US-based tour operator Mejdi Tours, speaking to The Media Line. “They have waited for the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for so long and it has not happened. But because they see the city as vitally important, many have realised that if they want to see it, they must just go.”

The first half of this year saw overall tourist numbers to Israel rise by 19 per cent compared with the first half of 2017, representing approximately 2.1 million individual travellers.