Israeli tourism minister upbeat
Stas Misezhnikov, the Israeli Minister of Tourism, has announced a £2.1 million investment into the UK market to encourage visitors to Israel.
At a press conference at London's World Travel Market this week, the director of the Israel Government Tourist Office, Rafi Shalev, reported a boost in tourism figures to Israel. New hotels are opening in the country next spring, but meanwhile UK tourism figures are up five per cent on January to August 2009, while worldwide, for the same period, visitor figures are up 27 per cent. Nearly two and a half million people visited Israel between January and September this year.
The figures are on top of a year in which Trip Advisor named Israel one of the Top 10 culture and sightseeing destinations in the world, beating London, Venice and Istanbul. National Geographic ranked Tel Aviv as one of the top 10 beach cities, Forbes Magazine named Tel Aviv one of the world's top party cities, and Lonely Planet named Tel Aviv the third best city in the world.
Mr Misezhnikov predicted that if demand from the UK continued to increase, "I anticipate another player will compete with El Al, BA and Easyjet - which have all kept their fare structures high - and this will help bring air fares down.
"We started negotiations with Air Berlin on the Germany-Israel route and extra flights have resulted in falling air fares. The same thing can happen in the UK."
The minister revealed: "We have worked closely with our neighbours to increase tourism to all of the Holy Land, not just Israel.
Facts and stags
Investment into the UK market to promote tourism
Increase on 2009 in numbers of worldwide visitors to Israel
Israel will have hosted 3.3 million visitors by the end of the year
Highly rated for culture and sightseeing
"When the Pope visited last year, this was organised in conjunction with the Palestinians and Jordan. The pilgrim does not want to know about borders, he just wants to see the Holy Land.
"How did we achieve World Heritage status for the Dead Sea? We worked in conjunction with the Palestinians and Jordanians. We are building trust with our neighbours by emphasising the mutual gain and profits. For every three tourists that visit Israel, two will visit the Palestinian areas. That's a win-win situation."