Chinese Hainan Airlines might soon operate direct flights to Israel, Tourism Ministry Director General Noaz Bar-Nir said last week.
According to Bar-Nir, the Tourism Ministry began negotiating the agreement with Hainan after China identified Israel as a preferred tourist destination last June, a move that increased demand for seats on flights between the two nations.
Bar-Nir Noted that the Tourism Ministry asked Israeli carrier El Al to add two additional flights a week to the Israel-Chine route, but the company refused. "It also wants to protect the exclusivity of route, which means keeping prices high," he said.
Bar-Nir explained that this is a harmful policy, which might cause tourists to look over Israel as a vacation destination in the long run. Currently many groups of Chinese tourists find themselves cancelling their trips to Israel because there just aren't enough seats on flights to accommodate them.
El Al CEO Eliezer Shkedi said during the IMTM tourism exhibition in Tel Aviv this week that the company is negotiating a codeshare agreement with China Airlines, which will allow the two carriers to reach more areas without expanding service by sharing flights.
Indian Airlines to fly to Israel?
Indians Airlines is also considering entering the Israeli market as result of the growing numbers of tourists travelling between the two nations.
"Our data shows that there has been a significant growth in the demand, which currently goes unfulfilled," Bar-Nir said. "It's all a question of (Air India's) ability to allocate planes to the route between India and Israel."
About 40,000 Indian tourists visited Israel in 2010, a 74% increase compared to 2009. A similar increase occurred in the number of visitors from China and Hong Kong, bringing 22,000 tourists to Israel.
El Al is the only airline to operate direct flights from Israel to China and India, effectively monopolizing these two routes. However, there are many Israelis traveling to the Asian destinations through connecting flights; many fly to India via Amman with Royal Jordanian, while others fly to China with Korean Air and Uzbekistan Airlines.
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