Cancellation of tourist visas for Russians visiting Israel to come into effect September 20; newly-installed tourism minister strives to double incoming tourism from European country.
Newly-appointed Tourism Minister Ruhama Avraham-Balila (Kadima) referred for the first time on Wednesday to the planned elimination of visa requirements for Russians visiting Israel.
Her comments were made in a seminar, which took place at the Kfar Maccabiah hotel, and was dedicated to the preparation of the tourism industry’s absorption of Russian tourists following the implementation of the ruling, which will be effective on September 20.
“Elimination of visa requirements for Russian tourists is a wonderful and unique window of opportunities. The cooperation of all tourism-related elements in the country, governmental and private, will actualize the potential of this tourism and will open the door for visa requirement cancellations from additional countries, starting with Ukraine,” said the minister at the seminar’s introduction.
As part of the Tourism Ministry’s efforts, Avraham said that the goal is to double the number of Russian tourists to 400,000 within a two-year period.
Thus, the ministry’s marketing budget in Russia will be doubled from NIS 6 million ($1.74 million) to NIS 12 million ($3.47 million).
President of the Israel Hotel Association, Eli Gonen, commented on the initiators of the project and said, “Former Tourism Minister MK Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Yisrael Beiteinu) and Tourism Ministry Director-General Shaul Tzemah did the impossible and succeeded in eliminating the visa obligation for tourists from Russia, something that seemed impossible back then.
“Now, the potential for Russian tourism is great and I hope that the new minister will go in the same direction and will vigorously work to eliminate tourist visas from additional countries like Ukraine, Malta and Moldova,” said Gonen.
In 2007, some 130,000 Russian tourists visited Israel and 60,000 were one-day visitors. They mainly visited the Dead Sea, Eilat and Jerusalem.
In the framework of the seminar, a review was given on the potential fruits of Russian tourism, economically, religiously and culturally.
Moreover, an explanation was given on the characteristics of outgoing tourism from Russia, the Tourism Ministry’s promotional activities for Russian tourism and plans of action for 2008-2009.