People enjoy themselves on a beach during the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Sept. 21, 2017. (Xinhua/Guo Yu)
by Xinhua writers Chen Wenxian, Liu Xue
JERUSALEM, Oct. 8 (Xinhua) -- Israel is keen on enhancing cooperation with China to attract more Chinese tourists to the Jewish nation, a senior Israeli tourism official told Xinhua in a recent interview.
Amir Halevi, director general of the Ministry of Tourism, lauded the growing tourism between Israel and China for serving as "a cultural bridge between the two countries."
"Incoming tourism from China makes a significant and growing contribution to the Israeli economy, particularly in the hotel and hospitality industries, attractions, shops etc," Halevi said.
Israel will continue its cooperation with Chinese partners for tapping the Chinese tourism market, he vowed.
The past years have already witnessed a sharp rise in the number of Chinese tourists visiting Israel.
A total of 64,600 Chinese tourists have visited Israel in the first seven months of 2017, up 66 percent from the same period last year and 130 percent from 2015, according to the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, which expects the number of Chinese tourists to Israel to reach 100,000 in 2017.
Many Chinese tourists perceive Israel as a mysterious and exotic destination, attracted by, among other things, the Jewish culture, the holy site of three great religions, Israel's tech innovation and the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth, Halevi said.
There are also many Chinese business delegations which visit Israel every year with an aim of learning more about Israel's tech innovation and seeking collaboration or partnerships with their Israeli counterparts in many areas, he noted.
A number of non-stop flights from China to Israel have helped boost the inflow of Chinese tourists to the Jewish state.
The Israel Airlines is now operating direct flights from Tel Aviv to Chinese cities of Beijing and Hong Kong, while China's Hainan Airlines is running direct flights from Beijing and Shanghai to Tel Aviv. In addition, the Cathay Pacific Airways provides direct flights from Hong Kong to Tel Aviv.
The policy that Israel offers 10-year multiple-entry visas to Chinese nationals is also an important factor in attracting more Chinese tourists to Israel, according to Halevi.
Halevi said his ministry is sparing no efforts to build the Israel tourism brand for Chinese tourists.
It has improved its tourism infrastructure to meet Chinese travelers' specific needs, such as employing more Chinese-speaking tour guides, and increasing the signage and tourism materials translated into Chinese.
On the recent visit to China by Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, Halevi said its led to a better understanding between the Israeli tourism ministry and main players in the Chinese tourism industry.
"We are working to promote Israel as a leading and safe tourism destination and would like to achieve a formula that will serve both sides for the long term," Halevi said.
There are plenty of opportunities for enhancing collaboration between Israel and China, "not only commercially, but also at the government level in order to promote bilateral tourism," he added.