Thursday, November 9, 2017

3 millionth tourist for 2017 lands in Israel to star welcome

Ilan Gattegno,

Image from article, with caption: Romanian tourists IIoana Isac and Mihai Georgescu with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin

Romanian tourist Ioana Isac and partner Mihai Georgescu met by tourism minister and officials upon arrival from Bucharest • Couple being treated to dream vacation courtesy of Tourism Ministry, including a helicopter tour and a private chef-prepared meal.

Incoming tourism broke records on Tuesday morning, when Wizz Air Flight No. 3257 landed in Israel, carrying Romanian tourist Ioana Isac, the 3 millionth tourist to arrive in Israel this year, and her partner Mihai Georgescu.

The pair were met at the airport by Tourism Minister Yariv Levin and ministry Director General Amir Halevi. After a brief welcome ceremony, in which Isac and Georgescu were presented with commemorative certificates, the couple were taken by limousine to the David's Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem, where they are staying in a luxury suite.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met the visitors at the Tower of David Museum in the Old City and posed for a selfie with them.

The couple, who decided to visit Israel to celebrate Georgescu's birthday, are being treated to a dream vacation courtesy of the Tourism Ministry, which will be publicizing the visit as part of its campaign to promote the Israeli tourism industry.

An excited Isac said she had been surprised by the deluxe welcome.

"I don't know what to say. This is my first time in Israel," she said, adding that she was moved by the honor.

Asked why she had chosen to vacation in Israel, she responded, "It's cold in our country now, and we were looking for a place with sun and where it would be nice to take a vacation to celebrate Mihai's birthday. We have a few friends here, and here we are."

Georgescu, who is officially tourist number 3,000,001 in 2017, is a dentist who wanted to visit friends from university who are living in Israel. During their visit, the couple plans to visit the Dead Sea, take a helicopter tour, and watch the sunset from the Tel Aviv boardwalk. They will also be treated to a private meal prepared by celebrity chef Nir Zook in his own home.

Welcoming them, Levin said, "Topping 3 million tourists for the year and setting a new all-time record for incoming tourism numbers is a day to celebrate. The half a million tourists who came to Israel this year are half a million new ambassadors for Israel in the world. We will, of course, use this vacation as a tool for marketing Israeli vacations worldwide."

Levin said every new tourist was an "ambassador for Israel in the world and loyal representatives of us on social media. This is a contribution that will tip the scales for Israeli public diplomacy."

Between January and October 2017, 63,000 tourists from Romania visited Israel, compared to 40,100 in the same period in 2016, a 57% increase. In 2015, 37,400 Romanian tourists arrived in the same 10-month period.

Continued efforts to expand Israel's open skies policy have allowed for more weekly flights to Israel from Romania, peaking at 64 flights per week, most from Bucharest. This month, a new route between Bucharest and Ovda Airport near Eilat commenced operations. On average, tourists from Romania spend seven nights in Israel.

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