Israel's marketing budget in Russia will be doubled from NIS 6 million to NIS 12m. as soon as the cancellation of the need for visas for Russian tourists goes into effect in mid-October, Tourism Minister Ruhama Avraham-Balila announced Wednesday. "The cancellation of the requirement for tourist visas for Russian tourists who choose to travel to Israel is a rare opportunity," she said in a professional seminar day on the Russian tourism potential to Israel held in Ramat Gan's Kfar Hamaccabia. "Joint efforts by governmental and private bodies in the Israeli tourism industry will help tap the potential in Russian tourism to Israel and will pave the road for further visa cancellations for more tourists from other countries, like Ukraine," she added. Avraham-Balila said some 4 million Russian tourists visit the region annually, but only 200,000 of them come to Israel. Most Russian tourists, about 2 million, vacationed in Turkey in 2007 and 1.2 million in Egypt, two countries that do not require a tourist visa upon arrival, she said. "In addition, the Tourism Ministry is currently preparing for the arrival of more Russian tourists to Israel," Avraham-Balila said. "That includes wider marketing activities, recruitment of Russian tour operators, expanding the capacity on flights from Russia to Israel and general infrastructure adaptation. Enlarging the volume of Russian tourism will also help create thousands of new job opportunities, especially in the periphery, and will be profitable to the Israeli economy." Eli Gonen, president of the Israel Hotel Association, praised the achievements of former tourism minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Israel Beiteinu) and the Tourism Ministry director-general Shaul Tzemach for their success in canceling the tourist visa for Russian tourists. "Now that the potential of Russian tourism has expanded," he said, "I hope the new minister will walk the same road and work to cancel the visa for tourists from other countries, such as Ukraine, Malta and Moldova." During 2007, some 130,000 Russian tourists visited Israel, excluding 60,000 one-day travelers who entered Israel via one of its land borders with Egypt and Jordan, and stayed for less than 24 hours, the period of time for which Israel does not require a tourist visa. During the first six months of 2008, some 150,000 Russian tourists visited Israel, a growth of 133 percent compared to the first half of 2007. The cancellation of the tourist visa for Russian tourists is anticipated to bring some more 100,000 Russian tourists here annually.