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Israel woos China again after curbs lifted

14 June 2023

Mideast country welcomes 1.76 mln foreign visitors in first five months


JERUSALEM — Israel recently came up with a creative idea to reach more Chinese tourists: inviting online influencers to visit the country, as it tries hard to lure back tourists from one of its top 10 inbound tourism source markets before the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in 2020.

An aerial view of the China-Israel Changzhou Innovation Park in Changzhou,

Jiangsu province, in August. [Photo/Xinhua]


"Israel is rich in tourism resources, including the magical Dead Sea and dynamic Tel Aviv. Israel is also a high-tech entrepreneurial country, and we warmly hope Chinese tourists will come to explore Israel," Roy Kriezman, the China-based representative of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, said in fluent Chinese.


Kriezman accompanied a group of 10 famed Chinese vloggers (video bloggers) during a recent visit to the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation in Tel Aviv, the last leg of their weeklong trip organized by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.


The center, located on the Mediterranean coast with a breathtaking view of the blue sea, was founded in 1996 by former Israeli president Shimon Peres. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate has been popular among many Chinese for his peacemaking efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and for visiting China several times to promote Israel-China ties.


The center, which displays Israel's leading technologies and innovations in many fields, has also become a window to showcase Israeli culture and innovations to the world.


This could be a strong appeal to Chinese tourists as the two countries established an innovative comprehensive partnership in 2017. The cooperation has become the highlight and driving force for boosting bilateral ties, as demonstrated by the joint creation of the China-Israel Changzhou Innovation Park and the China-Israel Shanghai Innovation Park.


During the tour by the Chinese vloggers, the Peres Center tried their utmost to make the visitors feel at home by translating the introductions in each showroom into Chinese.


"Welcome to the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation," read a Chinese message, which flashed on a huge screen to greet the Chinese guests.


Chinese elements were also evident in the office where Peres used to work on the top floor of the center. The vloggers took photos sitting in Peres' chair at the office, which is decorated with a red-colored plate from China's famed Tsinghua University and many Chinese books displayed on the bookshelf.

"This is my opportunity to invite all of you, every Chinese tourist, please come visit Israel, visit the innovation center. It will be an amazing experience, I assure you," said Tamar Nitzan, innovation community leader of the Peres Center, as she guided the vloggers during their visit to the center.


Israel has seen a resurgence in inbound tourism since the start of this year, following the lifting of its COVID-19-related restrictions on foreign tourists.


It welcomed 1.76 million foreign visitors in the first five months of 2023, a significant bounce back from 791,300 during the same period last year, according to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics.


"This is my second visit to Israel after 13 years, but I was still deeply impressed by the vitality of the ancient civilization," said Wang Xiao, an influencer with more than 3 million followers on Weibo, a Twitter-like social media platform in China.


During the trip, the Chinese online influencers visited major tourist spots across Israel, from the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve near the Dead Sea to the modern city of Tel Aviv.


"I strongly recommend visiting museums in Israel," Wang advised potential Chinese visitors to Israel. "Israel boasts a wealth of historical resources, while the latest technologies displayed in the museums also provide an unprecedented experience," she said.


Li Zimu, the China-based media manager of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, said the ministry is cooperating with major Chinese travel agencies and user-generated content sites to promote Israeli tourism in China, and "more influencers will be invited to discover the beauty of Israel".


There has been a gradual resurgence in the number of "fully independent travelers" since travel restrictions were eased in China earlier this year, Li said.


Currently, 14 flights operate every week between Tel Aviv and Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, which can meet the demand of Chinese tourists visiting Israel, she said.




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