Although only 7% of evangelical Protestants have visited Israel, the vast majority want to. In fact, eight out of ten are interested in doing so, including 40% who are extremely interested in visiting.
These findings are detailed in The Holy Land Journey: Evangelicals and Israel Travel. The research surveyed more than 1,000 American Evangelical Protestants who agreed with four basic religious premises: The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe; it is important for me to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their savior; Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin; and that only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.
In 2019, before Covid, 2.5 million of the 4.5 million visitors to Israel were evangelical. That was the year this news website took 32 individuals to the Holly Land…and the country seemed packed.
That group was a mix of evangelicals and protestants with several Catholic believers as well. Many had already traveled internationally which may have been above average.
Today, evangelicals are somewhat less likely than Americans, in general, to have traveled internationally. Only 56% of evangelicals have ventured outside the US, compared to 71% of Americans overall (according to Pew Research Center).
Just 15% of all evangelicals express no interest at all in traveling to Israel once the pandemic ends, while 40% are extremely interested in visiting. The types of evangelicals especially interested in visiting Israel are those who are more engaged in their faith (attending church regularly, reading the Bible frequently, etc.), those who believe that the Jews are still God’s chosen people today, and Pentecostal or charismatic evangelicals. In addition, the younger they are, the more likely evangelicals are to be extremely interested in travel to Israel.
Evangelicals who have already traveled to Israel are especially interested in a return visit – nine out of ten previous visitors (91%) are at least moderately interested in a return, and 52% are extremely interested in going again.
One warning sign for the Israel tourism industry is that evangelicals are quite divided over how safe it would be to go to Israel once the pandemic ends. Twenty-seven percent generally feel it’s unsafe, 40% lean toward the side of safety, and 33% are right in the middle or undecided. Only 18% of American evangelicals believe a trip to Israel would be extremely safe.
Mark Dreistadt, founder and president of Infinity Concepts, notes that opinions differ substantially based on experience. “Those who have already visited Israel are more than seven times more likely to see it as safe than unsafe, sixty-eight percent to eight percent,” Dreistadt says. “This enormous gap suggests a change in perceptions of safety among those who have never been there could go a long way toward increasing Israel tourism.”
Data finds that Israel is as safe, or safer than countries like Norway which is considered one of the safest in the world. But with headlines drumming a constant beat of conflict between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs, it’s often difficult to find the reality.
Ron Sellers, president of Grey Matter Research, agrees, cautioning that safety concerns appear to be a non-starter for many potential travelers. “Among evangelicals who feel it’s largely safe to visit Israel, 63% are extremely interested in doing so,” Sellers explains. “But among those who worry it’s really not safe, only 9% are extremely interested in visiting. Interest and perceptions of safety are directly correlated.”
Dreistadt also notes that the strong desire to return is one of the best endorsements of travel to Israel. “With so many fascinating destinations available to travelers post-pandemic, the fact that nine out of ten evangelical visitors would like to return to Israel, the land of the Bible, says a lot about the experience they had in the country.”