'Tourism is the best bridge to connect countries'

As one of the emerging tourist destinations, Israel has been gaining popularity in India and has experienced a consistent growth in tourism in 2015, according to Amir Halevi, director general, Israel Ministry of Tourism (IMOT).

Recently in the capital to discuss latest tourism initiatives taken by IMOT for the coming years, Halevi speaks to Metrolife about his experiences in the country and the popularity of India in Israel.

“This is my second visit to India. I came here 20 years ago for one-month-long private business trip for tourism purposes. I love the atmosphere here, it is very unique. Even the markets and the historical sites, are great,” Halevi tells Metrolife.

Having visited places like Jaipur, Varansi, Delhi and Mumbai, he feels that “India and it’s culture are very attractive,” and that’s why the country is popular amongst Israelis. “That’s why more than 50,000 Israelis travel into India every year. The population of Israel is eight million and 50,000 of them travel to India, so you can understand how popular India is for Israelis,” he says.

Along with the cultures, festivities and markets here, Halevi is also fond of Indian food and says that Israeli and Indian food is similar to each other.

“Israeli food is Mediterranean food but there are some similarities between them, like for the Indian rotis, we have pita bread.”

About the promotion of Israel tourism, Halevi says that they are now focusing on three segments of Israel: the holy lands, the incentives and the people who visit Israel for holiday purposes.

“Our focus on the holy lands is because there are many Christians in this country who would like to come to Israel to see the holy places. For incentives, we have tripled marketing budget for India in 2016 to tap the travel agents and direct consumers. And for people who visit Israel for a leisurely time, we will focus more on the culture and tourist spots where they can enjoy,” he says.

According to him, India and Israel currently share a good relationship with each other. “Your minister of foreign affairs was in Israel meeting our prime minister. So tourism is the best bridge to connect countries and to build relationships and partnerships,” says Halevi.

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