Tel Aviv: Buoyed by the recent direct flight service launched by Air India from New Delhi to Tel Aviv, a top Israeli official said that the country targets a growth of over 65% in Indian tourist arrivals.
Air India launched the direct flight from New Delhi to Tel Aviv on 22 March, reducing the travel time substantially after Saudi Arabia for the first time allowed a commercial flight to use its airspace to reach Israel.
As many as 60,000 Indian tourists visited Israel in 2017, up from 45,000 in 2016 and 39,000 in 2015, showing a steady increase in the total number of Indian tourists’ arrival, said Hassan Madah, director of Israel ministry of tourism in India.
The tourists’ arrival would definitely be over 80,000, he said.
“We hope that more airlines would come so the capacity will be bigger. There is scope for more airlines because one from Delhi, three times a week, is not enough,” Madah said.
The permission to fly over Saudi Arabia will save Air India almost two hours and 10 minutes compared to the longer route taken by Israel’s national carrier El Al, which has direct flights between Tel Aviv and Mumbai.
El Al takes a circuitous route over the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and then enters India and avoids countries that are on the direct flight path such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Many Arab and Islamic nations do not recognise Israel and, therefore, do not allow airlines to use their airspace for flight services to Israel.
Stressing that Israel’s picturesque offerings have a huge potential to attract film shooting, Madah said his ministry is also planning to promote Israel as a destination for making films.
“Dharma Production had recently shot a song in Israel for its film Drive. There is a huge scope and we want more and more films to be done in Israel,” he said.
Drive, an action comedy Hindi film starring Jacqueline Fernandez and Sushant Singh Rajput, is expected to hit the theatres in September.
Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin also pinned hope of a further increase in tourists’ flow with the launch of Air India’s direct flight which, he said, will lead to “easier, faster and more importantly cheaper” travel.