ISRAEL is courting Chinese visitors more aggressively this year and stands to benefit from Hainan Airlines’ thrice-weekly Beijing-Tel Aviv connection starting in September.
Amir Halevi, director general, Israel Ministry of Tourism, said: “We have been traditionally investing in North American and European markets. Emerging markets like China are also a focus for us now.
“We opened a office in Beijing around two years back and now, with Hainan Airlines planning to operate flights to Tel Aviv, we expect significant growth from the Chinese market.”
Israel has set a lofty 100,000 arrivals target over the next two years, compared to the 35,000 Chinese tourists it received in 2014. Leisure and MICE segments are key areas of focus.
To increase Chinese arrivals, the ministry has recommended that Chinese tourists are granted visas on arrival (VoA). “In the past we started VoA for Russia, which helped us to grow tourist arrivals from that market. So, we have proposed the government to extend this facility to emerging markets like China and India," said Halevi.
Online marketing, tradeshow participation, organising seminars and fam trips also form part of Israel’s efforts in China.
“We are also looking to increase our marketing budget for the Chinese market, which at present is about US$600,000 and we expect it to grow to US$2-3 million in three to four years," said Oren Drori, deputy director general and head of marketing administration, Israel Ministry of Tourism.
“Chinese tourists are mainly from the business segment, though there are some leisure tourists who visit places like the Dead Sea and Jerusalem. We are seeing an increase in demand from Chinese incentive groups as well," said Ronit Ezra, incoming sales manager, Mamilla Hotel Jerusalem.