Haifa has a number of distinct tourism anchors, its so-called “tourists must visit” sites: an amazing and relatively developed seafront strip; heritage and religious sites (the Bahá’í Gardens attracted about 1.24 million tourists in 2019, 45% of them from abroad); a developed ethnic culture (a variety of unique religions and cultures, customs, holidays and foods); diverse means of transportation (train, public transport, the Carmelit underground funicular railway, two cable cars, airport, international sea port); and geographic proximity to nearby tourist sites. Unlike in the past, today’s tourist comes not just to tick a box and go – they seek an all-embracing urban cultural experience, and Haifa knows how to give them one. The city’s tourism vision was built in light of these figures.
For many years Haifa has been trying to cross the Rubicon and become a city that attracts tourists. Haifa has the typical tourism features that tourists who come to Israel look for, yet the percentage of tourists who stay overnight in the city is very low – only about 4% of tourists in Israel. Haifa’s tourism potential is infinitely greater. A 2019 Ministry of Tourism study showed that over 30% of all tourists visiting Israel visited Haifa. According to 2019 data (the peak of tourism to Israel prior to the coronavirus outbreak), about 1.36 million tourists from abroad and another 600,000 domestic tourists visited the city – two million visitors! Of these, only 270,000 chose to stay in the city for an average of two nights.
In cities where tourism is developed, such as Tel Aviv, Jerusalem or Eilat, a culture of entertainment and hospitality has developed that also provides a solution for residents. Businesses that rely on culture and entertainment – restaurants, bars, clubs, festivals – and many other businesses around them need tourist traffic to establish themselves financially. Perhaps one of the reasons for Haifa’s sleepy image is the dearth of tourists who intensify the feeling of a beating pulse, that “things happen” here. The annual turnover from tourism in Haifa stands at 280-300 million shekels and generates only a few thousand jobs for the city’s residents. Some of the city’s tourism-cultural-entertainment businesses are on the brink of the economic balance point, with negative prospects.
From the research data we learn that many tourists choose to come to Haifa, but only for a short stay. The mission is to keep them in the city for at least two nights. A million tourists a year who stay in the city for at least two nights will generate a turnover of about 1.5 billion shekels for the city. This is critical. The significance of income on this scale is the development of thousands of sources of employment, economic strengthening of many commercial sectors in the city, an impact on the diversity of cultural activity and enhancing the city’s image in the eyes of its young people. And it also has a huge economic influence on the city’s assets and its transformation into a positive migration target for the younger generation.
Haifa has a clear tourism potential that will have far-reaching economic, cultural and social impacts on the city. In order to realize this potential, we must outline the path, act steadily and decisively, and be aware of the great blessing that tourism will bring to the city and its residents. Clarifying the data and focus, a multi-year work plan, setting measurable goals, concentrating activity into the hands of professional entities, initiative and entrepreneurship, national and international cooperation – all of these together will turn Haifa into an important tourism center, a city that hosts two million tourists a year in an eclectic multicultural atmosphere.
Until now, no regulated and planned policy has been formulated in Haifa, a five-year plan for the development of tourism. Although various attempts have been made over the years to promote tourism projects, they have been random and have not produced results sufficient for economic leverage.
In order to reach the objective – one million tourists who stay overnight in Haifa – we are collecting data from which we can learn and understand the characteristics of tourists today and Haifa can address in the future, refine the target audiences and create a tailored response for each of them.
Preparing master plans for developing hotels, establishing Haifa Airport; establishing a digital system that will expose the city’s tourism activity; marketing, advertising, sales and public relations; establishing relationships and motivating processes with tourism companies, investors, the Ministry of Tourism, airlines, economic entities, hotel chains from abroad – all these are part of a broad plan that must be completed and implemented, and to mobilize the budget sources and factors responsible for its implementation.
In order to reach this objective, we will act with great determination over years through diverse and complex channels.
The critical point that emerges from the data is a shortage of tourism infrastructure that can be the springboard of change and development. These are the two most essential:
- Establishing 5,000 hotel rooms within 15 years.
- Turning Haifa Airport into an international airport linking Haifa to Europe.
Meanwhile, various responses must already be created for visiting tourists. The Louis Promenade, one of Haifa’s amazing scenic routes, is a prime example of the city’s underexploited resources. About a million tourists visit it every year, but apart from small toilets there is no tourist information station, café or restaurant along its length.
In addition, Haifa lacks the combination of good food, shopping and pleasant and intimate entertainment at the end of the day – urban complexes that offer cafes and restaurants, shopping and cultural events such as musical performances and live shows in bars or clubs, where you can “close the day.” This combination is a key component of attracting tourists to cities.
In conclusion: Haifa has tremendous tourism, economic and cultural potential – that’s what everyone says. In order to realize this potential, we must outline the route, act persistently and determinedly, and remain aware of the great blessing that tourism will bring to the city and its residents.
Multi-Year General Work Plan
Preparing an initial program as the basis of the Master Plan for Hotels and later the Master Plan for Tourism. Entrepreneurs and investors in Haifa. To present the program to investors and entrepreneurs who can become acquainted with the various development areas and types of tourists projected to visit them.In closing stages. Haifa 2030 will transfer the program to the city engineer, who will present it to the Local Planning and Building Committee. Deadline: October 2021
Positioning Haifa as an attractive tourist destination for global tourism.
1) Passing tourists who mainly come to the Baha’i Gardens and continue on their way
2) Mainly tourists who come from destinations within the airport’s catchment
To keep them in the city for two to three days and expose them to the variety of points of interest it offers
To increase accessibility to Haifa and northern Israel.
Subject to the vision and work plan – 1,300,000 tourists
Subject to the airport’s expansion – 500,000 tourists a year
Positioning Haifa as a destination for recreational tourism, sports tourism, religious tourism, cultural heritage-oriented tourism, history, architecture and culinary arts.
1) Religious tourism: religious tourism from abroad (Baha’i, Christians (pilgrims), Muslims and Jews).
Religious tourism from Israel (there is a supply of hotels suitable for tourists and families that adhere to tradition)
2) Vacation tourism: The Riviera in Kiryat Haim, the southern approaches (Tel Shikmona), the beaches, Hadar and Talpiot Market, the lower city, the Carmel Ridge and Yafe Nof (Bahá’í Gardens, Architecture – especially Bauhaus, culinary arts and bars)
3) Sports tourism: surfers, sailors, swimmers, cyclists, good hikers (for mountaineers and lovers of the wadis). In July 2022, Haifa will host the Youth Maccabiah (“Jewish Olympics”). To expose religious tourists to their relevant attractions in the city (the Bahá’í Gardens, the Cave of Elijah, Nachmanides’ Tomb, Carmelite Monastery, churches in Wadi Nisnas, Mahmoud Mosque in Kababir, the Haifa Grand Mosque, Al Jarina Mosque, lower city)
To position Haifa as a city with many landmarks and beautiful views, allowing for a varied, fascinating, delicious and interesting vacation.
To make Haifa a home for professional and competitive national and international sports.
Developing and rehabilitating physical infrastructures for tourism. Market axis – Talpiot Market, Flea Market, Wadi Nisnas Market.
The historic market building is undergoing a radical renovation in stages, and the entire Sirkin complex is undergoing an urban renewal process (infrastructure, roofs and facades). The flea market is part of the Wadi Salib regeneration program. In Wadi Nisnas, tactical interventions will be conducted in cooperation with local residents.
Commerce, cafes and cultural activity centers will be returned to what was once one of Haifa’s bustling thoroughfares.
The promenade will be developed in accordance with the cultural centers along its length
Haifa has an abundance of staircases that cross its entire length. Along this axis, begining at Yafe Nof Street (Gedera Stairs) and ending at Paris Square, landscaping and gardening work will be carried out and it will become a tourist axis and complementary transportation solution (walking).
The Haifa municipality, together with the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, is creating a program for restoring the archaeological site
The site is undergoing restoration, in cooperation with government ministries.
To increase the number of tourists entering Haifa and the volume of overnight stays in the city.
Guests of the city – tourists (groups from Israel and abroad and independent travelers), agents and tourism entrepreneurs.
1) Establish a marketing and public relations system, inter alia through tourist agents in Israel and abroad, and sponsored advertising and media articles.
2) Digital tourism software that will gather the information relevant to a tourist in the city (hotels, including booking, restaurants and cafes, cultural and sports events, annual events (the ‘Holiday of Holidays,’ Haifa Film Festival), tours, links to relevant bloggers. Work team has begun formulating materials.
Objective for Hotels
The following table shows an estimate of the number of hotel rooms to be built in the city. The annual objective, starting in 2024-25, is about 900 hotel rooms per year.
No. of annual rooms
No. of rooms
Haifa approaches *
IDF lands – beach **
Bat Galim including military base
Carmel Center Yafe Nof
Kiryat Haim ***