UK tourist arrivals in Israel hit a record level last year but concern has been raised over future overall inbound travel growth.

Numbers rose to 235,400 throughout the year, representing an increase of 8% from 2018 and 19% from the previous year.

Overall international tourist numbers rose by 11% year-on-year in 2019 to more than 4.5 million, new Israel Government Tourist Office figures show.

But tourism ministry director general Amir Halevi voiced concern about future growth due to budget cuts.

He said: “We are within reach of achieving five million tourists, but we are concerned that the momentum we have achieved in focused marketing that has proven itself will not continue with the same intensity because of significant budget cuts.

“However, the ministry of tourism will continue to work with the aim of developing tourism brands that will attract additional target audiences to Israel, spearheaded by the Negev and the desert and, in the future, the Galilee.”

Tourism minister Yariv Levin added: “We continue to consolidate the inbound tourism industry thanks to innovative marketing and promotional campaigns, and we recorded a 10% increase in incoming tourism in December 2019, compared with the same month last year.

“Tourism growth has been driven by increased marketing budgets in recent years, and we hope that, despite the budget cut in 2020, we will be able to maintain the tremendous achievements we have reached.”

Tourist office UK director Sharon Bershadsky said: “We’re thrilled to end 2019 with a new record for inbound tourists to Israel from the UK.

“Our ‘Two Cities, One Break’ campaign continues to inspire UK travellers to get a taste of the buzzing, metropolitan, seaside delights of Tel Aviv, and explore the innumerable historic sites and archaeological wonders of Jerusalem.

“In 2020, we look forward to showcasing more of Israel’s natural wonders such as the Dead Sea, Masada, Eilat and the Negev Desert, alongside the country’s vibrant culinary offering, unique culture and arts scene, vibrant nightlife, outdoor adventure and wonderous ancient sites.”