Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov (Israel Beitenu), accompanying President Shimon Peres on a state visit to Brazil, has signed a tourism agreement in hopes of encouraging Brazilian and South American travel to Israel, the Tourism Ministry announced in a statement Thursday. The two countries' tourism ministers noted the power of the industry in promoting peace and understanding, as well as potential for improving the quality of life for both nations' peoples. "The Tourism Ministry sees great importance in strengthening ties with the South American countries, both in order to encourage tourism to Israel and to promote cooperation in various areas," Misezhnikov said. In related news, the government on Thursday announced an increase in the number of tourists visiting Israel. According to Tourism Ministry figures, 330,000 people made their way to Israel in October 2009, the most for a single month this year and a 9% increase over the same period in 2008, Israel's best-ever year for tourism. Misezhnkov noted that "these figures are a result of focused marketing, target audience segmentation and the creation of an infrastructure for marketing continuity worldwide, in line with Israel's new positioning as the Holy Land with Jerusalem at its center." The tourism minister added that success in overcoming the global financial crisis and the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead will help meet targets of infusing a billion dollars into the economy and creating 40,000 jobs in the industry.