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14 august 2012 Last updated at 10:43 GMT  
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Israel National Trail named in world top twenty

The Israel National Trail has been named one of the World's 20 Best Hikes by National Geographic magazine.

The scenic trail extends nearly 1,000 kilometers through the centre of Israel and it is joined on the list by trails such as the International Appalachian Trail in North America and the Great Himalaya Trail in Nepal.

National Geographic says the Israel National Trail is best for "long-distance hikers with a love of both ancient and contemporary history" and that it showcases “the sublime beauty of the wilderness of the Middle East."

This latest honour will further reinforce positive sentiment towards the Israeli tourism industry, which despite on-going political tensions in the region is enjoying a record year with nearly 300,000 tourists arriving in Israel in July alone – an 8% increase on the previous year despite the economic crisis in Europe.

Three main types of visitors are driving the recent success of Israel’s tourism industry. Firstly Jewish and Christian faith-based visitor numbers have risen steadily. Young American Jews taking part in organized trips such as Birthright are increasingly recommending Israel to their older relatives while European Christians feel safer visiting Israel due to the sharp decrease in suicide bombings in recent years.

Secondly Gay tourism has been actively promoted by the Israeli authorities with Tel Aviv recently being crowned the world’s "Best Gay City" with its glamorous nightclubs and scenic beaches.

Thirdly, visitors numbers have sharply increased from former Soviet states with strong historical Jewish communities such as Russia and Ukraine due to a liberalized visa regime and advertising campaigns such as the dozens of billboards currently lining streets in the centre of the Ukrainian capital Kiev.

The holy city of Jerusalem is a top draw, attracting 80 percent of all those who visit Israel despite the severe shortage of affordable hotel rooms in the capital. However Israel’s Tourism Ministry is taking action with more than USD 200 million of investment recently being announced to add more than 1,000 hotel rooms.

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