Where in Israel are there the most agricultural tourist attractions? What do visitors prefer - a farm tour, visiting a winery or cheesemaking factory?
Israeli tourism has long ago become a powerhouse in its own right. More and more celebrities have been arriving in Israel from all over the world to experience Israel’s tourist attractions. Some of them are interested in our holy places, some come to marvel at our natural wonders like the Dead Sea, and some come to experience our amazing technology first-hand. We can now also offer 2,846 agricultural and rural tourist attractions throughout the country, all offering those foreign and local tourists experiences on a par with anything they might expect to find anywhere else.
A tourism survey conducted by the Planning Authority in the Ministry of Agriculture indicates that over the past six years there has been a marked increase in the number of tourism enterprises in the rural space. Besides 750 tourist attractions which have gone out of business, over the past six years some 1,000 new tourist offerings have opened up, so that as of today there are 2,846 such establishments in the rural space. The survey also found that a quarter of all the rural tourism is agricultural tourism, meaning tourism focused on agricultural topics, such as: fruit picking, guided tours of wineries and fields, and that 75% of all agricultural tourist attractions are rural tourism sites, meaning general tourist attractions located in the rural environment, such as: artisans and crafts, museums, etc. When comparing between the different kinds of settlements, the finding was that the largest number of tourist attractions (36%) are located in Moshavs, followed by the Kibbutzim (33%), with rural residential communities in third place with 21%.
When divided by regional council, it appears that whereas in 2013 the leading regional councils in terms of number of rural and agricultural attractions were in the Upper Galilee and Golan, with over 180 attractions, nowadays the Mateh Yehuda Regional Council leads with 166 rural-agricultural tourist attractions within its boundaries. Following close behind is the Upper Galilee with 157 attractions, and the Golan with 155 attractions. Besides these, one can also see other councils which have entered the fray with rural-agricultural initiatives of their own - for example Neve Midbar (Desert Oasis), or others which have consolidated their standing in the field, such as the Menashe Regional Council, which has doubled the number of tourist attractions within its territory.
Another finding was that of all the attractions on offer, the leading one is hospitality coupled with tourism, workshops, alternative treatments and spas. These make up 39% of all the attractions. These are followed by arts and crafts, which account for 24% of the attractions, for example: galleries, souvenirs, second-hand clothing etc. Boutique factories processing agricultural produce are next on the list with 10% of all establishments, including wineries, oil presses and cheesemakers.
Moreover, when comparing between the types of attractions in 2013 and those in 2019, one can see how visitor preferences vary: whereas in 2013 there were 793 establishments featuring arts and crafts, in 2019 there has been a decline in this figure - 666 establishments in total. Also, there are apparently less visitors arriving at visitor centers. These have declined from 83 in 2013 to 47 in 2019. On the other hand, public interest in boutique establishments processing agricultural produce has increased - whereas in 2013 there were 219 such establishments, in 2019 there were already 296. The number of touristic animal farms has also increased by 45%.
Shai Dotan, Manager of Rural Economy and Tourism in the Ministry of Agriculture: “Agricultural and rural tourism in Israel has been a high-growth segment in recent years. Although the setting up of such establishments often encounters challenges and obstructions, over the years I feel this sector is taking its rightful place in Israel. Agricultural-rural attractions attract both incoming tourism and domestic tourism. The current survey we have conducted proves that the hard work at these venues, along with our work in the Ministry of Tourism, is paying off. I would also like to seize this opportunity, at the height of the summer holidays, to invite you to experience the rich variety of attractions on offer, related to the nature, landscape, culture and history, heritage and agriculture of our country. Come and experience farming and the rural space all over our country”.