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For the first time since the beginning of the second initifada, European travel companies will be operating at least seven direct flights a week from Europe to Eilat, which is expected to more than double the number of tourists coming to Eilat this winter.
"This is good news for the tourism industry in Israel and for Eilat in particular," Tourism Minister Avraham Hirschson said. "Eilat will see a hot winter. This is the result of our efforts to bring back tourism to Eilat."
In August, the Tourism Ministry said it had invested half a million euros for a campaign to attract Scandinavian and European tourists. Last month, 44 travel professionals from Germany arrived in Israel for a weekend conference aimed at boosting tourism between the two countries.
The Tourism Ministry said it expected 70,000 tourists from Europe to visit Eilat during the winter, with 500,000 booked lodgings generating $63 million.
On Wednesday, three fully booked charter flights with 630 tourists from Holland, Norway and Sweden arrived at Eilat airport
. The flights, which will continue throughout the winter until April, are operated by TUI, Europe's
largest travel company, and Kuoni, the Swiss travel group.
"TUI will... be operating one direct flight to Eilat a week and one weekly flight from Germany to Tel Aviv Ben-Gurion Airport
, as a result of a policy of further liberalizing Israel's aviation sector," Moni Bar, general manger of TUI Israel, told The Jerusalem Post
"The first one from Germany will be arriving with a TUI delegation on November 3. It is expected that more flights to Eilat from various European destinations will be added."
TUI incorporates approximately 3,200 travel agencies, more than 100 aircraft, 37 incoming agencies and 290 hotels with 163,000 beds in 28 countries.
During the winter more weekly charter flights to Eilat will be added from London, Manchester
and Moscow, the Tourism Ministry said in a statement.
The charter flights from Europe to Eilat are already fully booked for the next three months, it added.