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April 1, 2016 1:39 pm

Despite Terror Wave, Tourism to Israel Booming From North America, India, China

avatar by Lea Speyer

Tourists riding camels near Eilat. Photo: Israeli Ministry of Tourism.

Tourists riding camels near Eilat. Photo: Israeli Ministry of Tourism.

Despite the current Palestinian terror wave, last year saw no dip in tourism, an Israeli Tourism Ministry official told The Algemeiner on Friday.

Uri Steinberg, the North American Israeli tourism commissioner, said that “2015 was the best year ever for tourism to Israel from North America and the first quarter of 2016 is up over 2015.”

His comments were in response to a Reuters interview with Israeli Tourism Ministry Director-General Amir Halevi about the impact of terror on the industry. “For almost 70 years, we have been trying to manage tourism with things happening from time to time,” Halevi said. 

Halevi also noted additional sources of growing tourism: China and India. In 2015, tourism from China to Israel grew 43 percent — to 50,000 visitors. The Tourism Ministry expects that number to double by 2018. Indian tourism rose 13 percent, with 40,000 tourists in 2015. The ministry foresees 80,000-100,000 Indian tourists visiting the country in 2018.  

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“Israel is becoming increasingly seen as a fascinating old-new destination – with extraordinary historic sites, wonderful museums, a long heritage of culture, great hotels and restaurants,” Steinberg said, explaining the attraction many Chinese and Indian tourists have for visiting Israel.

Asked if religion plays a factor in the jump in Asian tourism, Steinberg responded: “No, it’s not, except for a minority of Christians. You don’t have to be Catholic to visit the Vatican; you don’t have to be Muslim to visit the Taj Mahal; and you don’t have to have a religious label to visit Israel.”

To help boost tourism from China, this past week, Israel became the third country, after the US and Canada, to agree to a 10-year multiple visa deal with China. According to Steinberg, the ministry will be specifically targeting Asian countries, in the hope of attracting tourists to Israel with “more and more education and working with tour operators, particularly in China and India, but also in Japan and Korea.”

“Much of the burgeoning Korean tourism to Israel is Christian,” he said, adding, “Korean Air is now flying to Tel Aviv.”

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