Tourism Minister Yariv Levin mentioned how the “Russian tourists in Israel really feel at home and can ask, talk & receive information in Russian without any problem.”
• New campaign advertises historical tours alongside beach and leisure resorts.
Israel is launching a campaign to attract Russian tourists, marketing the country as an alternative to Turkey and Egypt, Israeli tourism officials said Thursday.
The campaign was prompted in part by the recent bombing of a Russian airliner over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane that it claimed strayed into Turkish airspace.
Russia has responded by suspending flights to and from Egypt and imposing sanctions on Turkey that include a ban on the sale of tour packages. Both countries normally attract several million Russian tourists each year, creating new opportunities for Israeli tour operators.
Israel’s tourism minister, Yariv Levin, said his country is offering two types of trips to Russians — a Sinai-like “sea and sun” vacation in the Red Sea resort town of Eilat, which borders the Egyptian peninsula, and packages that include stops in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and at the Dead Sea.
“We hope to see an influx [of tourists] as early as in the next few weeks,” he said.
He said the campaign includes traditional advertising, partnerships with Russian tour operators and bringing Russian celebrities to Israel to “spread the word.” He said the attractions marketed would focus on Israel’s mild weather, its religious and historical sites as well as beaches and night life, and the large number of Russian-speaking immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
“Russian tourists in Israel really feel at home and can ask and talk and receive information in Russian without any problem,” he said.
Israel, of course, faces its own challenges in attracting tourists. The country has been embroiled in a two-month bout of violence characterized by Palestinian stabbings, shootings and car attacks.
Levin said that despite the violence, Israel is “one of the safest places in the world for tourists.”
He pointed to Israel’s low crime rate, and cited the Paris terror attacks and Wednesday’s California shooting massacre as examples of popular tourist destinations that have not escaped large-scale attacks.
The Israeli campaign has upset some in Egypt. “They are exploiting the situation,” Khaled Fouda, the governor of Egypt’s South Sinai region, said in a recent TV interview, referring to the Israelis.
Levin rejected such suggestions, saying the Israeli campaign was likely to attract only a small percentage of the 3 million Russians who visit Sinai each year. He added that the campaign could also help revive tourism across the region.
Ilanit Melchior, tourism director at the Jerusalem Development Authority, said an estimated 450,000 Russian tourists visit Israel each year, and she hopes the campaign will increase that figure by 10%.
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