Israel-China direct flights to return for first time since COVID-19 pandemic

Tourism Minister Yoel Razbozov's aim, he says, is to increase Chinese tourism in Israel to up to 10 million Chinese tourists annually by 2030.

Chinese and Israeli flags are seen on a table during a signing ceremony in Tel Aviv, 2014 (photo credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS)
Chinese and Israeli flags are seen on a table during a signing ceremony in Tel Aviv, 2014
(photo credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS)

Tourism Minister Yoel Razbozov met on Monday with China's Ambassador to Israel Cai Run to discuss the potential return of direct flights from Jerusalem to Beijing.

All direct flights from Israel to China and vice-versa were frozen after the COVID-19 pandemic began. Before the coronavirus, Israeli and Chinese airlines were offerings 25 weekly flights from Ben Gurion Airport to five Chinese cities.

Israel's goal: 10 million Chinese tourists by 2030

Razbozov sees the return of tourism cooperation with China as a priority, with over 150,000 Chinese tourists arriving in Israel in 2019. Razbozov's aim, he says, is to increase Chinese tourism in Israel to up to 10 million Chinese tourists annually by 2030

In the meeting, the two discussed the gradual return of the direct flights, with Run and Razbozov agreeing to "examine the possibility" of scheduling new flights by the end of 2022.

As part of the agreements made between the two, China's Hainan Airlines and Sichuan Airlines will work to reinstate direct flights from Tel Aviv to Shenzhen and Chengdu, respectively.

 El Al Israel Airlines counters are seen at Ben Gurion International airport in Lod, near Tel Aviv, Israel February 27, 2020 (credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN) El Al Israel Airlines counters are seen at Ben Gurion International airport in Lod, near Tel Aviv, Israel February 27, 2020 (credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)

China's 'economic anchor'

"The Chinese tourists who will arrive in Israel are an economic anchor for the state and will bring in massive amounts of money," Razbozov said. "I wish to thank the ambassador for the cooperation and for deepening the ties between our two ancient cultures."

In addition to tourism, Razbozov and the Chinese ambassador also discussed strengthening the economic and diplomatic ties between Israel and China, as well as promoting trade through a joint innovation committee set up by the two nations.