Good news for Israeli tourism businesses: you can soon expect an increase in Chinese customers. At least, that’s one likely result of China and Israel’s recent memorandum of understanding, which calls for a dramatic increase in passenger flights and cargo traffic between the two countries.

The governments of China and Israel are pushing for increased air connectivity between the two countries, a move that should lead to a substantial rise in the number of Chinese tourists

According to a memorandum of understanding signed by the Civil Aviation Authority of Israel and its Chinese counterpart, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), the frequency of flights between China and Israel is to be capped at 30 passenger flights and 14 cargo flights per week. This would represent a 50 percent jump in the number of passenger flights in comparison to the current agreement.

For Israel, the agreement will likely mean a serious boost for the tourism industry, which already has been enjoying considerable growth in the Chinese market. In 2015, Israel’s ambassador to China vowed that his country would attract 100,000 Chinese tourists by 2017. Last year, Israel attracted 113,000 Chinese tourist—a 46 percent jump on the year prior. Even Palestine has managed to attract an impressive number of Chinese visitors, recorded at 40,000 in 2017.

China’s airlines have been keen on establishing direct connections to Israel for some time

At present, Chinese travelers can go straight to Israel on flights operated by Israeli flag carrier El Al and the increasingly troubled Hainan Airlines. And while the latter seems to be facing trouble in certain areas of business, it appears bullish on Sino-Israeli travel—adding new routes and increasing frequency in Israel. Even before the new cap was proposed, Sichuan province’s Sichuan Airlines had also announced the establishment of a route between Chengdu and Tel Aviv.

What exactly is attracting so many Chinese tourists to Israel is perhaps the most controversial part of the equation. While increasing Sino-Israeli trade, intensifying tourism partnerships, and greater interest in “lesser-known” destinations on part of Chinese consumers all certainly play a role—Chinese media has also attributed growth to what it calls “religious history buffs,” possibly a more “neutral” nickname for Chinese Christians.

For Chinese travelers, the 50 percent theoretical increase in direct flights between China and Israel means more competition and likely a higher level of convenience than ever before. If history is any guide, the lifted cap will result in both a higher frequency of flights and more routes—opening Israel up to new markets in China as well. Hopefully, Chengdu is just the first of many new exciting tourism source markets for Israeli tourism stakeholders to tap into in China.

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Destinations, Transportation