Eilat is expecting a boom in European tourism this winter, with 18 direct charter flights from Europe scheduled to operate throughout the season, more than three times as many as operated last winter, reports www.local.co.il. The extra flights, from Germany, France, England, Russia, Poland and Finland, will add 2,100 seats to the regular flight schedule each week, and are expected to bring a total of 80,000 European tourists into the vacation city this winter. According to the report, the Tourism Ministry has been conducting a successful campaign throughout Europe to bring tourists to Eilat, and the increase in direct charter flights has been part of this campaign. Last winter, just five direct charter flights were operating from Europe to Eilat, but this winter that number has risen to 18. A Tourism Ministry spokeswoman said that Eilat was up against a number of serious competitors for the European tourist market, but the ministry fully expected Europeans to "flood" into the city this winter. The report said that more than 2.3 million tourists visited Israel in the first nine months of this year, a 38 percent increase over the same period last year. In September alone, 260,000 people visited Israel, a 44% increase over September last year and a 58% increase over September 2006.