KOCHI: Israel’s Ministry of Tourism (IMOT) is planning to increase its services in Kerala to woo more tourists from the state to the Jewish state. Hassan Madah, IMOT - India and Philippines- Director was here on Thursday as part of the roadshow to promote Israel’s tourism here.
Hassan said Tel Aviv’s Arkia Israeli Airlines has evinced interest in operating regular direct flights from South Indian cities, including Kochi, to Israel. Similarly, Israel will open a visa centre in Kochi if the number of tourists from Kerala visiting Israel increases in the future.
“The tourism industry has seen the emergence of Tier II cities like Kochi contributing significantly to outbound bookings, especially international destinations. Over the years, we have noticed a growing interest in the leisure segment, besides the popular pilgrimage travel from the city.
This trend is exciting for us and we foresee an increase in experiential travel from Kochi. With our maiden endeavour in this city, we are happy to have successfully introduced the varied tourism offerings of Israel to the travel trade here and help them build new connections,” he said. There has been a 58 per cent growth - 48,800 - in the number of Indian travellers to Israel during the January-September 2018 period compared to the 30,800 Indian visitors during the same period in 2016.
“We are expecting around 80,000 tourists from India to visit Israel by the time the year draws to a close. Next year, we expect over one lakh tourist arrivals from India,” he said. Israel has undertaken several steps to ease visa procedure for Indian nationals. These include Fast Track visa processing and relaxation in the documentation for persons who have travelled to any of the Schengen countries - the US, Canada, Australia and Israel.
A further reduction in visa fee to Rs 1,100 will see more people choosing Israel as a holiday destination. Currently, the visa centres are operating in Kolkatta, New Delhi, Chennai and Bengaluru.