Israeli ambassador to China: 100,000 Chinese tourists in Israel in 2017

Israel's ambassador to China says promoting process of abolition visas to promote tourism.

March 12, 2015 17:40
2 minute read.
Hainan Airlines

China's Hainan Airlines.. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

In anticipation of additional direct flight routes between Beijing and Tel Aviv set to launch this fall, Israel’s ambassador to China, Matan Vilna’i, vowed on Thursday to see 100,000 Chinese tourists coming to visit in 2017.

“My personal goal is 100,000 tourists...,” Vilna’i said on Wednesday, at a meeting held at the College of Management-Academic Studies in Rishon Lezion. “That is why we are promoting a process of abolition of visas.”

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In January, Hainan Airlines – China’s fourth-largest air carrier and largest private carrier – announced plans to begin operating three direct weekly flights from Beijing to Ben-Gurion Airport in September. The route is slated to operate three days a week, on days that El Al does not fly the route.

As a result of the increased direct flight options, as well as Israel’s desire to attract the expansive Chinese tourist market, the process to cancel visa requirements for these tourists is already under way, Vilna’i explained. Such a cancellation, he said, would be crucial in promoting business and diplomatic ties between the two countries.

The ambassador attended the meeting in Rishon Lezion at the initiative of Alex Pevzner, founding director of the Chinese Media Center at the College of Management’s School of Media Studies. Among the participants were members of major Chinese media outlets operating in Israel.

The forthcoming inauguration of the Hainan Airlines route to Israel is the result of efforts led by Vilna’i in conjunction with the Tourism Ministry. According to the ministry, Israeli officials presented Hainan Airlines senior personnel with the economic benefits of operating the route, which has until this point been the exclusive domain of El Al.

In 2014, 116 million Chinese tourists traveled the world. Only about 34,000 came to Israel, according to ministry data. Nonetheless, the data showed a steady rise in Chinese tourists, up 76 percent in 2014 over 2012.

Despite predictions by the Israel Export Institute last April that Asia would overtake the United States as the second-biggest export destination for Israeli products in 2014, it remained in third place.

Exports to Asia amounted to about $10 billion, approximately 21% of the country’s total exports, with no significant change since the previous year, according to the Export Institute’s “Development and Trends in Israeli Exports” report for 2014. Exports to the US, on the other hand, amounted to about $10.7b., approximately 22% of Israel’s total exports, while those to the European Union were worth about $15b., approximately 31% of the country’s exports.

Regarding China in particular, the Export Institute predicted that trade would “continue to grow at a rapid rate in 2015, but at more moderate rates than in the past.”

China became the largest source of global tourism in 2012. The number is predicted to increase even further, to 200 million overseas tourists by 2020, the Tourism Ministry data said. In 2014 alone, Chinese tourists spent $120b. on vacations.

Niv Elis contributed to this report.

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