Travel

Israel targets over 65 per cent growth in Indian tourist arrivals

Israel targets over 65 per cent growth in Indian tourist arrivals

Published:08 April 2018

Tel Aviv | Buoyed by the recent direct flight service launched by Air India from New Delhi to Tel Aviv, a top Israeli official said that the country targets a growth of over 65 per cent in Indian tourist arrivals.Air India launched direct flight from New Delhi to Tel Aviv on March 22, reducing the travel time substantially after Saudi Arabia for the first time allowed a commercial flight to use its airspace to reach Israel.

As many as 60,000 Indian tourists visited Israel in 2017, up from 45,000 in 2016 and 39,000 in 2015, showing a steady increase in the total number of Indian tourists' arrival, said Hassan Madah, director of Israel ministry of tourism in India."We have seen the growth year by year. When a new aircraft comes to a country, there is an increase in the capacity (to carry people at better convenience) and we are targeting almost a lakh in 2018," he told PTI recently.

The tourists' arrival would definitely be over 80,000, he said."We hope that more airlines would come so the capacity will be bigger. There is scope for more airlines because one from Delhi, three times a week, is not enough," Madah said.Air India operates a 256-seater Boeing 787 Dreamliner on New Delhi-Tel Aviv route three days a week.

The permission to fly over Saudi Arabia will save Air India almost two hours and 10 minutes compared to the longer route taken by Israel's national carrier El Al, which has direct flights between Tel Aviv and Mumbai.El Al takes a circuitous route over the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and then enters India and avoids countries that are on the direct flight path such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.Many Arab and Islamic nations do not recognise Israel and, therefore, do not allow airlines to use their airspace for flight services to Israel.Madah said Israeli tourism ministry is working on connectivity from other Indian cities like Cochin and Goa in tourist season later this year.

Stressing that Israel's picturesque offerings have a huge potential to attract film shooting, Madah said his ministry is also planning to promote Israel as a destination for making films."Dharma Production had recently shot a song in Israel for its film Drive. There is a huge scope and we want more and more films to be done in Israel," he said.

Drive, an action comedy Hindi film starring Jacqueline Fernandez and Sushant Singh Rajput, is expected to hit the theatres in September."Over three million people visited Israel last year. Now the tourism in Israel is booming and we are having tourists from many countries not only from India. We have a record number of tourists' arrival from China, the Philippines and other places," the Israeli tourism ministry official said."People think it is not safe to visit Israel but actually at the end of the day, tourists are coming and not listening to all kinds of (negative) things.

"We don't have any conflict that could affect the tourism," he said, dismissing the fear among some people that Israel was not a safe tourist destination.Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin also pinned hope of a further increase in tourists' flow with the launch of Air India's direct flight which, he said, will lead to "easier, faster and more important cheaper" travel."I believe tourism is very important for many aspects. It is not only the economic contribution, it will also make Indian people understand what Israel is and the Israeli to know what India is.

The direct flight will contribute to overall relationship between both the countries," he said.Asked whether there could be a launch of flights from new destinations, Levin said, "I do believe that we will see great success of the direct flight. We will see more frequencies. We will see new destinations which could be directly connected between India and Israel and it is only a question of time".He said that there has been "real improvement" in the relationship between India and Israel after Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014."We had great friendship between our people. Now, I think we see it also among our leaders. From our point of view, India is not only a friend but it is a very, very important country," the tourism minister added. 


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