(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
Some 200,000 tourists from Ukraine are expected annually by next year, Tourism
Minister Stas Meseznikov said Wednesday, at a ceremony to mark the waiving of
the visa requirement between Israel and Ukraine.
“The cancellation of the
visas is expected to double the number of Ukrainian tourists to Israel to
200,000 by the end of 2012, reduce the cost of flights between the two countries
because of the increased mutual traffic, and will bring a great diplomatic
contribution through the improvement of relations with a true friend of Israel,”
Meseznikov’s statements came before he left for a two day visit
to Kiev, where he will lead a 150-person delegation from the tourism industry.
He will meet with Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, as well as the
country's foreign minister and tourism minister.
According to the Tourism
Ministry, Ukraine is the 8th largest source country for incoming tourists, with
some 90,500 visiting Israel in 2010, a 23% increase over 2009. The country
expects 130,000 to visit in 2011.
The ministry plans to invest NIS 4
million in 2011 in marketing to Ukraine, a 50% increase from 2010. The ministry
is also working to boost the air traffic between the two countries, which
currently stands at 27 weekly direct flights, of which 22 fly to Kiev and five
to other regions.
Joseph Fischer, owner’s representative and executive
board member of IDB Tourism, said that while he “appreciates whatever type of
tourism this will bring, we’ll have to see what effect it will
Fischer said the Ukrainian tourists are more “low-end to mid-range
tourists. They are in a very serious economic situation in Ukraine. Their
economy is not based on energy like Russia. I’d rate them as two- or three-star
Fischer added that, “there are 50 million people in Ukraine and
while there are also rich people, they are lesser in number than the low-income
tourists, and there are less of them among the Ukrainian tourists than there are
among the Russian tourists.”
Fischer asserted that the visa agreement was
brought about due to pressure exerted on the government by the Israel Beitenu
party and the haredi parties.
Many Israel Beitenu voters are of Ukrainian
origin and the visa waiver would save them money when visiting relatives in
Ukraine, who themselves would also be spared the hassle when visiting
For haredim, the waiver means that the thousands of people who
visit Ukraine each year for the pilgrimage to Rabbi Nahman of Breslov’s grave in
Uman will no longer need to pay for a visa.