India is set to become the third largest source market for leisure and MICE visitors to Israel, with intensive marketing efforts and easing of visa norms by the Israel’s Tourism Ministry. Israel has increased its promotional budgetary allocation for India to US$2.5 million in the last two years.
Amir Halevi, director general, Israel Ministry of Tourism, said: “We realise that India is going to be one of the top three countries sending tourists to Israel and so we have started to invest a lot in marketing our tourism potential there. We have already opened a tourist office in India. We also launched our first campaign last year which was a big success. We also got an award for it saying it had the same level of impact as Pepsi in India. Right now about 50,000 Indians are coming to Israel every year. There is a huge potential given India’s size and this number can be easily doubled in a very short time. Indian tourists generally spend more than the average tourist which also makes them an attractive target.”
Given the importance of India as an emerging market for incoming tourism to Israel, the Tourism Ministry has initiated a move to ease the visa restrictions on Indian incentive tour groups wishing to visit the country. It is hoped that this measure will be ratified in the near future, reducing the waiting time for a group visa to five working days.
However, the imminent introduction of an Air India flight in June to Tel Aviv may be a game changer. An Air India delegation is expected to visit Israel this week to formalize agreements that were initiated last year. The number of tourists from China to Israel doubled in one year after the start of direct flight by Hainan Airlines.
Commenting on concerns about visa issuance to Indians and also subsequent problems such visitors may encounter while travelling to the Arab countries, Halevi said: “The visa process is now better and hopefully could be even easier. A tourist from India looking to get visa stamped on paper can get it that way and there will really be no problem with that.”