Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. warmly received Israel Tourism Minister Yariv Levin at the department’s office in Makati City on a visit to exchange views on the promotion of tourism between the two countries.
Both agreed to develop bilateral cooperation on tourism within the framework of an agreement signed by their respective governments in 1987.
Minister Levin highlighted the special role tourism cooperation can play for both economies. “When we put together the history of our relations, the natural attraction of the Philippines, and the spiritual attraction that Israel represents, the potential is huge,” he said.
On the other hand, Secretary Jimenez remarked, “It is a great honor for the Philippines to have been chosen as the first trip abroad of Hon. Yariv Levin as Minister of Tourism. Your visit sends a very powerful message that we need to promote the Philippines in Israel, and any information on the Israel market would be greatly appreciated. It is also very timely as we are now reviewing areas of concentration in tourism promotion.”
On the Air Services Agreement signed in 2014, Levin said, “We need to improve flights between Manila and Tel Aviv as there are no direct flights to and from these destinations except for chartered flights. There is actually keen interest in opening new routes.”
DOT Undersecretary Benito Bengzon, Jr. responded, “We are likewise working double time on chartered flights that would cater to the tourists in Israel.”
Both ministers agreed to the promotion of sustainable tourism through the sharing of best practices, exchange of experts and provision of trainings. Also discussed were embarking on exploratory projects on community-based programs focusing on, but not limited to, agritourism and ecotourism.
Secretary Jimenez believes that the visit is one way of celebrating awareness between each country. He said, “I hope that we can step up cultural exchange, especially in music. Israel’s tourism boasts of diverse music, food, culture, among others.”
Statistics from the Department of Tourism (DOT) showed that a total of 8,776 Israeli tourists arrived in the Philippines in 2014, up by 14 percent from 7,675 in 2013. Meanwhile, from January to July 2015 arrivals already reached 6,900 revealing a 44.35 percent increase from the same period last year.
The Philippines’ beautiful beaches, diving spots and island getaways are the main draws for Israelis. Asia is a major destination with more than 150,000 Israelis arriving each year.
Meanwhile, statistics from Israel’s Ministry of Economy showed that 11,156 Filipinos visited Israel in 2014. The Philippines is considered Israel’s sixth largest market in Asia. Pilgrimage tourism to Israel is popular to most Filipinos. The exemption from visas to Israel since 1969 has helped develop outbound travel to said country.