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Israel gives numbers in tourism growth from 2015

Posted : 01 April 2016 11:59:19 | By TWO Bureau | Jerusalem

Israel gives numbers in tourism growth from 2015

Israel is looking towards East Asia to China and India & other countries of the region to help drive tourism expenditure and arrivals in the country, as visits to the country have stil haven't recovered from the 2014 war of Gaza, Tourism Ministry Director-General Amir Halevi said.

In 2015, tourism grew to about 45 percent from China with over 50,000 visitors from the country and the ministry hops to double that by 2018. It will be helped by the start of nonstop flights next month by Hainan Airlines from Beijing to Tel Aviv which will add 35,000 extra seats to Israel each year.

Tourism in 2015 fell by about 3 percent to 3.1 million, following a war with Palestinian militants in Gaza in 2014.

In six weeks of the Gaza conflict, Israeli air strikes killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, while Palestinian militants killed six Israeli civilians and 67 soldiers.

The fighting briefly stopped near the vicinity of Israel's main airport near Tel Aviv as a missile from Gaza fell nearby, while scenes of rockets fired into Israel and forcing Israelis into shelters led to many tourists cancelling travel plans.

Halevi 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 with knifes, car-ramming or gun assaults. At least 190 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces.

"For almost 70 years, we have been trying to manage tourism with things happening from time to time," Halevi said, pointing to a global trend of violence.

Tourism is a key growth industry for Israel's economy, accounting for 2.5 percent of gross domestic product. It contributes to over 40 billion shekels ($11 billion) into the economy yearly with about 200,000 employees, or 3 percent of Israel's workforce employed directly in the torism sector.

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

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

Halevi said Chinese interest in Israel is growing day-by-day. In this month's Jerusalem Marathon, there were 170 people from China - up from 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 and other East Asean nations, whose tourism to Israel rose 11 percent last year to nearly 90,000. The ministry targets to double the figure by 2018.

Indian carriers have expressed the desire to fly to Israel and Halevi said if tourism keeping up a steady pace in rising, there will be at least one in addition to El Al.

High cost of flights and hotels are also recuperation from the Isreal & Palestine conflicts hampering 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 political resistance.

Tags : Israel, tourism, East Asia, China, India, Israel tourism, Tourism Ministry Director-General, Amir Halevi, tourists, foreign visitors, Gaza, visitors, tourism growth, 2015, tourists, 2018, flights, Hainan Airlines, Tel Aviv, Palestine US, Israeli forces, economy, torism sector, tourist market, visa, Jerusalem, El Al, 2020

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