Tourism Ministry Director-General Shaul Zemach announced on Tuesday during the largest tourism fair in Russia, that an accord due to be signed today will eliminate the tourist visa requirement for Russian and Israeli travelers.
The agreement, to be signed by Russia and Israel’s tourism ministers, will come into effect within a few months.
The accord is the fruit of the initiative and promotion of outgoing tourism minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and an expert ministerial team.
“I am proud to be part of a step that will help change the face of tourism in Israel and increase the number of tourists by five million over the next few years,” Aharonovitch said. “The move will create thousands of new jobs … It is an achievement of great importance in narrowing income discrepancies and limiting poverty,” he added.
In 2007, Russia constituted the third largest national group among incoming tourists, and has one of the largest tourism growth potentials. About 193,000 tourists from Russia visited Israel in 2007, up 163% over 2006. January of 2008 saw an increase of 256% in the number of tourists from Russia compared to the same period last year.
The growth is among other things a result of the Tourism Ministry’s efforts to cancel the requirement for a tourist visa, which stirred a great deal of interest and expectations among tourism wholesalers in Russia. Many of the tourists come for one-day trips to Israel, and the Tourism Ministry expects that with the abolition of tourist visa requirement many will come for longer periods.
“With the elimination of the tourist visa requirement coming into force, we expect Russian tourism to reach more than 300,000 in 2008 compared to 200,000 last year, and more than 400,000 by 2009. Hundreds of thousands of tourists will create thousands of new jobs and hundreds of millions of shekels in additional revenue for the Israeli economy. This tourism is expected to generate revenues of about $280 million annually,” Zemach said.