Mumbai: With an aim to enhance commercial ties with the Indian travel fraternity and strengthen media relations, Israel Ministry of Tourism (IMOT)’s events started off with a destination presentation leading to an interactive workshop followed by a press conference with the IMOT team. The Israeli delegation was led by Hassan Madah, Director, IMOT, India & Philippines along with Judah Samuel, Director – Marketing, IMOT, India and included representative partners from the tourism industry of Israel.
Madah said, “Israel is an emerging destination for the Indian traveller and tourist arrivals have been growing progressively over the last couple of years. 2017 was a record breaking year for us with close to 60,000 Indian tourists visiting Israel. We are constantly striving to increase destination awareness among consumers, Indian travel trade and MICE agents. Besides the source markets, we are looking to focus on cities like Nashik and Kochi that have immense potential and recently conducted maiden roadshows in Guwahati, Lucknow and Kochi as well.”
IMOT has recorded a growth of 58 per cent with 48,800 Indian arrivals to the country from January to September 2018. “We hope to touch 80,000 Indian arrivals this year and cross the 1 lakh mark in 2019,” informed Madah.
Air India had announced an increase in weekly flight frequency on the New Delhi – Tel Aviv direct route to fly four times a week starting July 14 and on November 26 added their fifth flight. In addition to Air India, El Al Israel Airlines currently operates direct flights from Mumbai to Tel Aviv and in November upgraded its aircraft to a Boeing 777 offering more seat capacity.
Arkia Israeli Airlines will start flights to Kochi (twice weekly) and Goa (during season) in March 2019. Recently, SpiceJet opened a GSA in Israel. Indigo, Jet Airways and Vistara already have similar operations in the country.
Furthermore, Israel has reduced its visa fee as well to Rs. 1100 from its previous Rs. 1700 for Indian citizens to encourage Indian travellers to visit Israel.
In December last year, relaxed visa documentation was brought in for applicants who have availed visas of Schengen countries, US, Canada, Australia or Israel and have completed their travel to these destinations. Israel has also introduced a fast track visa (within 48 hours) for just $64 more. Multiple entry visa, valid up to five years, has also been simplified. A new visa application centre was opened in Kolkata recently.
“Israel is becoming a popular destination among leisure and MICE travellers. Beautiful landscapes, historic attractions, availability of Indian food, increased flight connectivity and simplified visa processes make Israel a great place for MICE and incentive travellers,” added Madah.
IMOT is also dialling Bollywood for mass promotion of their destination. In February 2019, the destination will be featured in action drama Drive, a Dharma Productions release starring Sushant Singh Rajput and Jacqueline Fernandez. Recently actress Disha Pattani travelled to Israel for a cover shoot with Travel + Leisure magazine.
Addressing the security and safety situation, Madah said, “The situation in Israel is similar to the one in India. It is at the borders and does not affect the whole country. Whether it happens in Kashmir or Gaza, it does not impact Delhi, Mumbai or Tel Aviv. We both, as nations, have learned to deal with conflict and yet advance and prosper.”
Israel offers a plethora of things to do and see to cater to the discerning traveller. From the historical city of Jerusalem to the beach city of Tel Aviv; from the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth, to the marvellous underwater marine life of the Red Sea in Eilat, Israel is truly a dynamic destination. “The Holy Land does not require any promotion as the world knows about it. We are focussing on the other segments,” said Madah.