First Air India flight over Saudi reaches Israel Thurs

Air India ad for Israel Photo: Havas Media

58,000 Indian tourists visited Israel in 2017, up from 34,600 in 2014.

The first flight by Air India will land in Israel tomorrow evening and later return to Delhi. The flight will pass over Saudi Arabia in both directions representing a diplomatic breakthrough for Israel - this will be the first-ever commercial flight to Israel that has flown over Saudi airspace.

"The opening of the route from India and the flight via Saudi Arabia is a historic event," said Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin. "I am glad that the great pains we took with Air India over the past two years have borne fruit, and a direct air route from Delhi to Israel has been opened." These efforts included hosting company executives in Israel. "The new route will contribute to increasing passenger traffic from India, which is making consistent progress," Levin said.

At this stage, Air India will receive a €750,000 grant only for its first year of activity. The entire budget is to be devoted to marketing efforts to encourage Indian tourism to Israel. Billboards are already being placed in various cities in India with the caption, "Begin Your Journey to Israel." Ticket prices begin at 35,000 rupees (NIS 1,900). Actually, all the market measures being taken by Air India are subject to approval by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, which is checking the viability of the marketing strategy presented by the Indian airline and advertising costs in India.

The route passing over Saudi Arabia shortens the duration of the direct flight to India by two hours. This enables the airline to sell roundtrip tickets for $700. This route also provides an interesting alternative for travelers: connection flights to various Far Eastern destinations, including a favorite destination of Israelis - Thailand. The Travelist website, which compares tourism prices, checked how much a flight to Thailand in August would cost, among other things on Air India, which had the cheapest offer.

A direct flight at the peak of the summer vacation (August 16-18) with El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. (TASE: ELAL) will cost $1,362, while a flight on the same dates with Aeroflot via a connection flight in Moscow will cost $984. Turkish Airlines offers a flight on the same dates for $964, while Air India is offering a flight to Bangkok at the cheapest price: $886.

El Al currently operates direct flights from India to Israel on a route from Mumbai. According to Ministry of Tourism figures, the number of Indian tourists visiting Israel was growing even before the beginning of Air India's activity. 58,000 tourists from India visited Israel in 2017, compared with 44,500 in 2016, a 23% increase, 39,300 in 2015, and 34,600 in 2014.

The upward trend is continuing in 2018. Since the beginning of the year, the number of incoming tourists has increased by 33%, compared with the corresponding period last year. The Ministry of Tourism is aiming at much larger numbers, given the fact that at least 50 million Indians hold passports. A check by the Ministry of Tourism found that an Indian tourist stays in Israel for an average of 6.2 nights, and spends $1,066 during his visit. Four years ago, the Ministry of Tourism opened a special office in Mumbai to promote tourism to Israel.

Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on March 21, 2018

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2018

Air India ad for Israel Photo: Havas Media
Air India ad for Israel Photo: Havas Media
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