by Nick Kolyohin
JERUSALEM, Jan. 27 (Xinhua) -- Israel is increasing its efforts to attract more tourists from China, seeing high potential of growing Chinese visitors.
In 2015, the number of Chinese tourists to Israel was a bit more than 30,000, while in 2017 and 2018, over 100,000 tourists from China visited Israel.
One of the key reasons for the increase of Chinese tourists to Israel is the introduction of direct flights between the two countries.
There are currently direct flights from Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Chengdu, and Hong Kong to Tel Aviv, with more direct flights expected to be launched in 2019.
Israel has also opened visa centers in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, and one more to be opened in Chengdu. The centers would promote and expand Chinese tourism to Israel.
In addition, the Israeli Ministry of Tourism opened in Guangzhou its second representative office in China, while the first office has been operating in Beijing.
The ministry stated that according to the United Nation World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Chinese tourists are by far the top spenders.
Inside Israel, the ministry has taken steps to make the Chinese tourists feel more convenient, such as bringing Chinese celebrity chefs to give cooking courses.
Moreover, Israel has increased the number of Chinese-speaking tour guides, launched a Chinese-language website, and provided signage, maps, and other materials in Chinese, at major tourist sites.
Besides, many Israeli guides have traveled to China, only for the propose of learning the language and culture of their Chinese potential clients.
Furthermore, Israel will soon launch WeChat and Alipay to facilitate the payment with digital access for the Chinese tourists.
Multiple entry visas for up to 10 years are now available for Chinese visitors, instead of the previous three-month visas.
The procedures are part of the friendly measures Israel has taken to remove significant obstacles that slow down growth of incoming tourism from China.
"Israeli hotels have made incredible changes to fit the Chinese travelers," said Zohar Marom, Head of Incoming Division at Amsalem Business Travel, the largest private-owned travel company in Israel.
Marom said that the Israeli tourism industry puts lots of efforts into making the Chinese guests feel home here, including "a corner of Chinese breakfast" in many hotels.
Some hotels have added Chinese TV channels and special-designed Chinese tea. Parts of tourist sites have started to offer brochures in Chinese and Chinese-speaking guides.
Relevant stores independently learn to speak Chinese with the new guests and translate their prices and the content of the products to the Chinese tourists, said Ayal Segal, a regional manager at Kayak.com, a global online travel giant company.
According to Israeli tourism authorities, the Chinese tourists prefer their first visit to the "must see" places, such as Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, and Tel Aviv. They also like to visit historical sites they have read about in the books.
Chinese people find many similarities between them and the Israeli people, especially in the open nature of communication and culture, the authorities said.
In addition, Chinese tourists display their fascination with Israeli innovation, technology, and education, as well as a curiosity about religion, spirituality, and Jewish wisdom.
A significant portion of the worldwide diamond industry is happening in Israel, and it creates an opportunity for Chinese customers to purchase discounted jewelry, Segal added.
Israel hit a record high of attracting more than 4 million tourists in 2018, which injected 22 billion new shekels (about 6 billion U.S. dollars) into the Israeli economy.