The cabinet has approved an exemption from airport fees for all flights taking off from and landing at Ovda Airport. This measure is designed to encourage foreign airlines to operate flights to Israel. The exemption was granted following a proposal by Minister of Transport and Intelligence and Atomic Energy Yisrael Katz.
Katz said that the exemption from fees for Ovda would granted until the airport named after Ilan and Asaf Ramon, which will have a three-year exemption, goes into operation. The new Ramon Airport in Timna, which will replace the old Eilat Airport, is scheduled to open in April 2017.
The measure comes on top of the Ministry of Tourism's winter campaign, which will also be valid this year. In order to increase the number of tourists in Eilat, especially during the winter, the Ministry of Tourism is granting a €45 subsidy for each tourist flying directly to Eilat. Last year, 50,000 tourists flew to Eilat during the winter, with the subsidy amounting to NIS 7.5 million (out of NIS 15 million allocated for the purpose).
120,000 seats have already been reserved for flights this year, and NIS 23 million has been allocated for the subsidy.
70,000 passengers passed through Ovda Airport in January-August 2016, 163% more than during the corresponding period last year.
Low-cost airline Ryanair, which does not fly to Ben Gurion Airport, will continue its direct flights to Eilat this winter. Ovda Airport currently receives some of the international charter flights to Eilat, mainly from European countries such as France, the Netherlands, Germany, and Italy, as well as from various Eastern European countries.
The cancelation of fees is expected to encourage additional low-cost airlines to fly to Israel. If the airlines pass the fee exemption on to their passengers, it will mean a substantial discount on the price of a roundtrip ticket. Lowering ticket prices will on the one hand encourage tourism, but on the other hand will widen the gap between hotel prices in Eilat and the price of other tourist products in the town.
Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin said, "I thank Minister Katz for bringing this proposal to the cabinet. It is another significant step for encouraging direct flights to the Eilat area, in addition to the €45 subsidiary introduced by the Ministry of Tourism last year for every tourist during the winter."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on September 18, 2016
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