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Chinese tourists head to Israel
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07:43, September 05, 2008

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The first Israel-bound Chinese tour group will depart later this month, opening a channel for tourists to see Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.

The group of 80 tourists will leave in two batches on Sept 25 and 28, Israel's Tourism Minister Ruhama Avraham-Balila said at a press conference yesterday.

Previously, Chinese tourists need invitation letters to get business visas to visit Israel, Wu Jianguo, manager of the Latin America and Africa Division at China Travel Service Head Office, told China Daily.

"This made it extremely difficult for tourists to visit Israel, which boasts rich culture and beautiful natural sceneries they can experience," he said.

The tour group to Israel will visit famous sites such as Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and Eilat in the 10-day trip, which will also include some scenic spots in Jordan, he said.

The price for the trip is 28,000 yuan ($4,100), higher than the price of most trips to the United States.

"Most people in the group are experienced tourists, who find Israel a mysterious country," Wu said.

The biggest appeal comes from Jerusalem, one of the oldest cities in the world and the spiritual center of the Jewish people, he said.

Believing Israel will be a potential destination for Chinese tourists, he said much work however still needed to be done to persuade people that Israel is safe to visit.

"Our group will not go to Gaza Strip, and all stops on the journey are famous scenic spots flooded with foreign tourists," he said.

Tourists are warned not to go to bar or cafes at night for safety's sake, he said.

China and Israel signed an agreement last year, making Israel an approval destination for Chinese tour groups.

More than 10,000 business tourists visited Israel last year, and the number is expected to rise sharply this year, Avraham-Balila said.

Israel is making preparations for receiving Chinese tourists, including providing brochures printed in the Chinese language, she said.

China is forecast to be the world's leading outbound market by 2020, the United Nations World Tourism Organization said.

Source: China Daily

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