Travel Tel Aviv

By Qi Xijia Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/12 18:33:39

Israeli travel industry hopes to dispel safety concerns of Chinese tourists

On Tuesday, a Hainan Airlines flight departed from Shanghai Pudong International Airport and landed in Tel Aviv, Israel, the next morning, making Shanghai the third Chinese city with direct flights to Israel along with Beijing and Hong Kong.

With China's growing outbound travel market, Chinese tourists are looking for more cultural diversity in their destination choices. Israel, home to unique natural beauties and historical heritage sites, is appealing to an increasing number of Chinese tourists after the two countries implemented a joint 10-year multiple-entry visa in November 2016.

Under the new visa agreement, Chinese can enter Israel multiple times over a 10-year period and will be allowed to stay up to 90 days each visit, though they cannot stay more than 180 days within a single year.

Over the past two years, the number of Chinese tourists to Israel jumped from 40,000 to 100,000, Yariv Levin, minister of the Ministry of Tourism in Israel, told the Global Times during a press conference in Shanghai Monday. As of September of this year, there has been a 60 percent growth compared to the same period in 2016, Levin said.

The ministry signed a ­cooperation agreement with Ctrip, a Chinese online travel agency, with an aim to expose Israel to China's vast tourism market.

But how safe is Israel?

Israel attracts tourists worldwide with the natural wonder of the Dead Sea, a diverse and vibrant nightlife and ancient religious roots. However, as a political hot spot with frequent military skirmishes at the Israeli border, it also keeps many would-be travelers away.

Addressing whether it is a safe travel destination for Chinese families to visit, Levin said, "Unlike what you see on TV, Israel is one of the safest places for tourists in the world. Not only because we have a lot of abilities to deal with the terror - that situation in Israel now is much better than in Europe or other places - but also in regard to public safety, you can walk in the streets at night, go everywhere, with no robbers nor things like that."

Asked about whether tourists with an Israel-stamped passport will be restricted to enter Arab countries, Levin said, "In the past it was a very big problem. We have also produced a scheme to put the stamp outside the passport. But nowadays it is hard to find countries where people with an Israeli visa will be restricted, and those countries are the ones that usually people don't travel for leisure," Levin said.

The Israeli tourism and hospitality industry is making every effort to welcome the Chinese, including training more Mandarin-speaking tour guides, translating travel information about restaurants, hotels and attractions into Chinese and sending more Israeli chefs to learn how to cook Chinese food.

"Chinese-speaking tour guides in Israel have increased fivefold. I think we've made big progress and we are continuing to work on it. The overall country is very friendly to Chinese visitors, both in the aspect of language and services," he said.

As a country also known for its innovation and high-tech sector, Levin said the ministry will create special packages that include certain aspects of Israeli start-up industry.

"It is my first time to Shanghai and I am amazed by this beautiful city. We have to revisit Shanghai repeatedly and the best excuse to come back is come to celebrate the milestone of the increasing number of Chinese tourists from China to Israel," he said.

Yariv Levin (middle), minister of the Ministry of Tourism in Israel Photo: Qi Xijia/GT


Local Israeli cuisine


Masada, a world heritage site


A woman floats in the Dead Sea. Photos: Courtesy of the Ministry of Tourism in Israel


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