Israel delighted as tourism from China & India continue to grow


Tourism from China grows 43% to some 50,000, from India up 13% to nearly 40,000 visitors in 2015, and with Chinese carrier to launch nonstop flights next month from Beijing to Tel Aviv, the Tourism Ministry sees visitors doubling by 2018.

By Reuters & Israel Hayom Staff


Israel is looking east to China and India to help drive tourism, as visits to the country have yet to fully recover from the 2014 Gaza war, Tourism Ministry Director General Amir Halevi said.

Travelers at Ben-Gurion International Airport [Illustrative] – Photo: Yehoshua Yosef

In 2015, tourism grew 43% from China to some 50,000 visitors and the ministry sees that doubling by 2018. It will be helped by the start of nonstop flights next month by Hainan Airlines from Beijing to Tel Aviv that will add 35,000 extra seats to Israel a year.


“This will change the game,” Halevi told Reuters. “The price of tickets will go down 50%.”

Tourism in 2015 fell 3% to 3.1 million, following Operation Protective Edge in 2014. A weak Russian economy also weighed.

Halevi also played down the impact on tourism of Palestinian stabbing attacks in the last five months. Palestinians have killed 28 Israelis and two U.S. citizens in knife, car-ramming or gun assaults.

“For almost 70 years, we have been trying to manage tourism with things happening from time to time,” Halevi said.

Tourism is a key growth engine for Israel, accounting for 2.5% of gross domestic product. It contributes over 40 billion shekels ($11 billion) into the economy yearly with about 200,000 employees, or 3% of Israel’s workforce.

Ben-Gurion Airport. Increased demand from foreign airlines to fly to Israel – Photo: IAA

The United States is Israel’s largest tourist market at 20%, followed by Russia, France, Germany and Britain.

Earlier this week Israel and China agreed to a 10-year multiple visa deal, with Israel becoming the third country after the United States and Canada to have this arrangement with China.

Halevi said Chinese interest in Israel is growing. In this month’s Jerusalem Marathon, there were 170 people from China — up from just 6 last year.

Flag carrier El Al already flies nonstop to China.

Outgoing tourism from China is expected to reach 200 million by 2020.

In 2016, Israel will also make a push into India, whose tourism to Israel rose 13% last year to nearly 40,000. The ministry targets 80,000-100,000 in 2018.

Indian carriers have expressed the desire to fly to Israel and Halevi said if tourism keeps rising, there will be at least one carrier in addition to El Al.

High cost of flights and hotels also discourage tourism but Halevi said the ministry was seeking international chains to build low-cost hotels.

He believes a convention center and casino is needed in the Red Sea resort city of Eilat to bring in tourists, although a plan for a casino has met with political resistance.


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