26 percent increase in tourism to Israel in 2005

Tourism to Israel raised by 26 percent in 2005 over the previous year, reflecting a turnaround in the industry since Israeli-Palestinian violence dropped. A total of 1,902,900 tourists visited Israel in 2005, up from 1,505,500 in 2004, Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics said in a release.

But 2005's figure was still 21 percent less than the peak tourism year of 2000, when almost 2.5 million tourists visited the country, the release said. Tourism to Israel began to plummet in September 2001 with the outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian hostilities that has included suicide bombings in major Israeli cities and Israeli military operations in Palestinian areas.

A turnaround in the industry began when the violence dropped off significantly in 2004 and especially since a cease-fire was signed between the sides a year ago.

Every 1 million tourists bring about $US1.5 billion (1.2 billion) to Israel and support almost 40,000 jobs, tourism officials tell, reports the AP.

D.M.