MASSIVE interest in the Philippines was generated at the recent International Mediterranean Tourism Market (IMTM) in Tel Aviv, with Israeli tourists keen on beach adventures and nature trips.
In an interview via Messenger, Tourism Attaché Gerard O. Panga said, “I received queries about the Covid situation in the Philippines, so I assured all about very low Covid infection cases, and that the Philippines is the easiest country to visit now in Southeast Asia.”
A bilateral agreement between the Philippines and Israel allows visa-free visits to each country. Visitors from Israel only need to submit a negative result from a Covid RT-PCR test taken within 48 hours of departure from their home country, or a negative result from an antigen test taken 24 hours prior to their departure. Upon their return to their home country, Israelis have to take an RT-PCR test upon arrival and quarantine for 24 hours.
“According to the organizer of the IMTM, the Philippines was the most fun and watched booth at the event,” added Panga. “This is the most important leisure travel fair catering to the active Israeli outbound travelers…. The Israelis are intrepid and adventurous travelers who go for nature trips, beach holidays, trekking, diving, cultural immersion, volunteering, responsible travel, visit friends and relatives, city breaks, and ‘bleisure’ (business and leisure),” he noted.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) has designated Israel an opportunity market, growing an average of 10 percent annually. Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, the Philippines received 22,851 visitors from Israel, up 12.33 percent from 2018.
Globally, tourists from Israel spent $2.18 billion in 2020, down by 79 percent from some $10.4 billion the year before. In Southeast Asia, Israelis also don’t need a visa to Taiwan, Thailand, and Malaysia. In 2018, Tel Aviv adopted a diplomatic policy pivoting to Southeast Asian nations.
Waiting for PAL
IN a separate interview, DOT’s marketing representative in Tel Aviv, Golan Yossifon told the BusinessMirror via email, “Most of the inquiries (at IMTM) were focused on the various connections, ways to travel to the Philippines and about the timing of the maiden flight [between Tel Aviv and Manila] by PAL (Philippine Airlines). We were asked as well about the prices through connection flights with Turkey Airlines, Gulf Air, Etihad, or Emirates to the Philippines.” A round-trip flight between Tel Aviv and Manila costs an average of US$1,000 and involves a layover to a third country.
While PAL has announced plans to fly between Manila and Tel Aviv, a ranking official of the carrier said recently that there were still no plans for a launch date. (See, “As it turns 81, PAL leaner, meaner for new normal,” in the BusinessMirror, March 28, 2022.)
Yossifon said while there were inquiries about the “culinary aspect” of the Philippines, he said there were no dietary issues raised. “For most of the population of Israel, kosher food is not needed or required. However, for the large sector in Israel that asks for kosher food, eating vegetables can be a solution.”