- Posted by Christopher Ledsham
- On 18th July 2016
- Arrival Numbers, direct flights, FTA, Israel, Visa Policy
Concerned about the effects that political turbulence in recent years have had on its domestic tourism industry, the Israeli Ministry of Tourism’s general marketing budget has increased significantly since 2014, with a generous portion of the funds earmarked for the Chinese outbound tourism market.
The funding allocated for marketing within the department has increased sharply by over 100 million shekels (USD 25.9 million) to 300 million shekels (USD 77.7 million), with a total of 15 million shekels (USD 3.8 million) of the money being set aside particularly to focus on Israel’s plans for the China market. Estimates from within the Israeli Tourism office suggest that while Chinese travellers account for only 1.5% of Israel’s tourism industry, as much as 5% of the total budget is being focused on this budding market segment.
In 2015, the total number of Chinese arrivals to Israel stood at 47,000, which, while considered a modest figure compared with inbound travellers from countries in Europe and North America, represented a 45% year-on-year growth rate. Building upon these successful figures, the Israeli Tourism Ministry’s has set its official target at 100,000 Chinese arrivals in 2018; a 113% increase in only 3 years. Nevertheless, given the already exceptional growth rates, figures within the Ministry are estimating that the Chinese arrival figure could even reach 150,000 per annum within this timeframe.
On account of a number of great successes in bilateral relations in recent months, the Israeli tourism industry has strong cause for optimism. Following the opening of bilateral Free Trade Agreement talks earlier in the year, 2016 also saw the opening of the first direct flight route between the two countries in April – Hainan Airlines’ Beijing-Tel Aviv connection – as well as the ratification of a ten-year multiple entry visa for Chinese nationals in July, a move that follows in the footsteps of the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.
Even before the opening of this first direct flight route, the first quarter of 2016 had seen 13,600 Chinese arrivals to Israel, representing a 21% year-on-year increase. As has been seen in numerous locations worldwide, Israel’s introduction of non-stop flights to China and a simplified visa policy should serve as a boon to its Chinese outbound tourism industry. In positioning itself as not only a strategic flight hub, but also one that will allow Chinese travellers to visit the country with minimal visa issues for years on end, Israel’s ambitious arrival targets should be well within reach .
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