A woman holds a placard to support China in front of the Tel Aviv Municipality Hall lit up with the colors of China's national flag in solidarity with China's fight against novel coronavirus epidemic in Tel Aviv, Israel, Feb. 11, 2020. (Photo by Gil Cohen Magen/Xinhua)
The epidemic no doubt is a challenge for the tourism industry and people naturally are scared and would postpone their travels, but in the end people will go on vacations, said Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin.
JERUSALEM, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) -- The unexpected novel coronavirus epidemic has created some temporary impacts, but China's tourism market has a huge potential for Israel over the long term, said Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin.
China has become one of the main source markets for Israeli tourism, Levin told Xinhua in a recent interview, saying the number of Chinese visitors surpassed 150,000 in 2019.
This was a great increase, but "it is still not a big number and the potential is still to be exploited," noted Levin.
According to the annual report released by Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, the number of Chinese tourists that visited Israel last year reached 156,100, up 36.7 percent compared to 2018.
A sunbather floats on the Dead Sea in Israeli Dead Sea Hotels area on June 11, 2012. (Xinhua/Yin Dongxun)
"We miss Chinese tourists and I hope that what happens now will be ended as fast as possible," he said in reference to the ongoing COVID-19.
Levin added that he is sure that "the Chinese government is doing its best in order to create a situation that all this problem will be behind us."
The epidemic no doubt is a challenge for the tourism industry and people naturally are scared and would postpone their travels, but in the end people will go on vacations. "I am sure we will overcome it," said Levin.
Levin believed the flow of Chinese tourists to Israel will continue and grow once the problem is solved.
"The relations between Israel and China are strong and Chinese tourists are very welcomed all the time," he said. "I hope that we will see China is big and strong as usual."
Levin has come to China for several times as a tourism minister and traveled to various Chinese cities. He said he was "very impressed" by the country every time he visits.
Both Israel and China have been working closely to strengthen cooperation and exchanges to tap into the great potential in the two countries' tourism industries.
"I actually grew up among books in Chinese," he said, adding that his mother was one of the first Israelis to learn Chinese and was head of the Asian and African department of the Israeli National Library.
"China has a unique history and has an important place in the heritage of the world," noted Levin.
Thanks to the closer ties between China and Israel, a number of non-stop flights have been in operation, serving as a significant bridge for tourism and people-to-people exchanges between the two nations. ■