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Israel bets on China for tourism boom


Israel is looking east to China and India to help drive tourism, as visits to the country have yet to fully recover from the 2014 Gaza war, Tourism Ministry Director-General Amir Halevi said.


In 2015, tourism grew 43 percent from China to some 50,000 visitors and the ministry sees that doubling by 2018. It will be helped by the start of nonstop flights next month by Hainan Airlines from Beijing to Tel Aviv.


"This will change the game," Halevi said. "The price of tickets will go down 50 percent."


Tourism in 2015 fell 3 percent to 3.1 million, following a war with Palestinian militants in Gaza in 2014. Tourism is a key growth engine for Israel, accounting for 2.5 percent of gross domestic product. The United States is Israel's largest tourist market at 20 percent, followed by Russia, France, Germany and Britain.


Israel and China recently agreed to a 10-year multiple visa deal. Halevi said Chinese interest in Israel is growing. In this month's Jerusalem Marathon, there were 170 people from China – up from 6 last year.



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