OFFICIALS of the Philippines and Israel have discussed bilateral cooperation to further increase tourist arrivals and the possibility of Manila-Tel Aviv direct flights.
Philippine Ambassador to Israel Pedro Laylo, Jr. and Israeli Tourism Minister Haim Katz noted the surging number of tourists from each other’s countries.
Department of Tourism (DOT) data show 10,312 Israeli tourists visited the Philippines from January to August 2023. This figure has already surpassed the 9,711 recorded for the whole of 2022.
The Israeli Ministry of Tourism’s statistics on the other hand showed that Filipinos visiting the Holy Land from January to August 2023 alone reached 22,800, exceeding the 22,500 total of 2022.
As such, two-way tourism between the Philippines and Israel for this period is already at 33,112, beating last year’s total of 32,200.
To sustain this momentum, Laylo proposed that chartered test flights be initially launched before deciding to launch regular direct flights in 2024.
“I am confident that the test flights will be fully booked by Israeli tourists flying to their dream Philippine vacations, and by Filipino pilgrims en route to Tel Aviv and other Holy Land destinations.
The cargo hold will also be filled to the brim by Philippine products in high demand in Israel – such as our fresh pineapples and sweet mangoes” the envoy predicted.
Laylo invited Minister Katz to visit the Philippines before the year ends to meet Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco, sign the Philippines-Israel Tourism agreement, and hold a dialogue with Philippine Airlines on the possibility of direct flights.
Katz accepted the invitation, saying he intends to see for himself what the Philippines wants to show Israeli tourists.
Laylo offered to bring Katz to El Nido and Siargao, beach destinations extremely popular among Israeli beach lovers and surfers.
The Ambassador also recommended that the Minister bring with him a delegation of Israeli travel operators and tour agencies.
In response to complaints about strict border screening in Israel, Katz assured that the Tourism Ministry will work with Israeli airport and immigration authorities to improve the arrival experience of Filipino tourists at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport.
Boosting tourism is part of Laylo’s mission to expand channels of mutual prosperity between the Philippines and Israel.
The Embassy works closely with DOT and partner Israeli tour operators in promoting Philippine destinations to the Israeli market, through tourism trade summits, social media campaigns, and familiarization tours in the Philippines.