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"India is an important emerging market for Israel"
With Indians looking to explore newer destinations overseas, Israel Ministry of Tourism is looking at gaining its share of pie of the Indian outbound segment. Oren Drori, Deputy Director General & Head of Marketing Administration, Israel Ministry of Tourism, talking about the target segments and marketing strategy to penetrate the Indian market
- Oren Drori, Deputy Director General & Head of Marketing Administration, Israel Ministry of Tourism, There are a lot of misconceptions about Israel in the Indian market. How do you plan to clear the air?  
"Israel’s Ministry of Tourism has taken a strategic decision to invest efforts, budgets and energy into the Indian market. Undoubtedly, we believe that this will be a game changer. Until now we were mostly investing our resources in North America and Europe. They still remain important for us, but we see potential in some emerging markets, and India is one of them. However, in India has a lot of misconceptions. People are unaware of the ground realities because of the negative coverage carried by news. 

"Our target is to bring Indians to Israel for the first time and this is why the TAFI (Travel Agents Federation of India) Convention was an important step. This is because after the travel trade experiences Israel first-hand, Indian travellers’ three walls of misconception will break down:  
  1. Issue of safety or the image of war - In Israel, kids walk down the streets by themselves which is not seen in European/American cities. This proves the country is safe.
  2. Lack of modernisation - Some people think Israel is not a modern country. They will realise that the country has a lot of historical aspects, but with a new, modern, and vibrant touch.
  3. Not much variety in offerings - Israel is a very small nation so one can easily travel to two different worlds like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, which are 45 minutes drive away from each other. Yet, both cities are completely different in terms of people, culture, architecture, scenery, atmosphere, etc.
"I grew up in Tel Aviv and when I was older I came to Jerusalem, and until now I feel like a foreigner, because both cities are so different in terms of everything. Not to mention the desert in the South and the lush greenery in the North, the diversity of the Red Sea and the Dead Sea. We always say we have the Red, the Med (Mediterranean Sea) and the Dead, which are right across but are so different and unique. 

"Israel is spread over an area of just 21,000 sq km, but it has a lot of things to do and experience. When the construction of the International Convention Center was underway, the authorities came across clay tools and building stones of second century AD. They built a glass wall around that area and didn’t destroy the artefacts. This is just to illustrate how dense this country is, because every time a road is built, a piece of history is discovered. 

"We see the TAFI Convention as the first big step of bringing more than 500 Indian travel agents to Israel. Henceforth, we intend to invest more in promoting the country in the Indian market, but this will take time because we have to identify the target audience and the geographical area. We want to put ourselves on the outbound travel map of Indian travellers, who can discover Israel on an average in seven to eight days".
 - What are your expectations from the Indian market in 2015, and from which cities in the country do you receive maximum tourists? 
"We receive tourist traffic mostly from the metro cities of Mumbai, Delhi, and Bengaluru. We have just started promoting Israel in the Indian market and don’t expect much growth in one year. If 2015 will be a good year, we might receive around 45,000 Indian tourists. To reach the mark of 100,000 Indian tourists it will take around five to six years. We need to be patient and first penetrate the market. Undoubtedly, we have to develop aviation links and would like an Indian carrier to operate direct flights to Israel. We already have El Al Airlines flying to India and it is only a matter of time before Indian carriers start offering direct services to Israel". 

- Are you in talks with any Indian carrier for direct flights? 
"We have had talks with Air India, Jet Airways, but with no success. We will continue our efforts to push more carriers to operate direct flights since there is need for increased frequency and competitive pricing".

-  How do you plan to change the image of Israel as a pilgrimage destination?
"Israel as a holy land is a relative advantage. It is certainly a pull, but what we are trying to do is package it with other offerings like archeological and historical sites, and cultural aspects, both old and new. Also, Israel offers a variety of experiences like culinary activities, wineries, sport activities, and bird migrations. 

Israel is a small nation with a diversity of offerings where one can move around quickly, experiencing variety of aspects. There is an essence of religion, but with a modern vibe like Tel Aviv, a city that never sleeps. There are traffic jams at 4 am in Tel Aviv. While trying to portray a modern Israel, we are not trying to move away from the holy land, but to add to the offerings, and slowly and gradually we are succeeding in doing so. Israel as a tourist destination is popular in the US and Europe, but we see India as a great new step, where we have a long way to go".
- What are the marketing activities planned for 2015 in the Indian market?
"We attended SATTE (Delhi) earlier this year, and are planning to participate in more fairs. We are planning to conduct more roadshows and seminars for the travel agents and key decision-makers. Also, plans are underway as far as hospitality activities are concerned for journalists, media and tour operators. For MICE operators, we have already conducted a few successful activities".

- Please elaborate on the marketing budget for the Indian market.
"We are talking about an entry budget, which is about USD 500,000. In three to four years, it will probably grow to USD 2,000,000-3,000,000. Of course, it depends on the budgets we receive from the government. We will be taking things gradually. We have received good tourist footfall from Mumbai. But, we participated in SATTE Delhi since it witnesses many national and international participants.

"Currently, we are in the penetrative stage in the Indian market. Once we see an increase in the number of tourists, and an additional carrier offering direct connections, we can simplify the visa process with the Ministry of Interiors. Three years ago, Israel abolished visa for Ukraine. Hopefully, in the years to come we might be able to abolish visa for Indians. Our Prime Minister is very keen on focusing on the Indian and Chinese markets for tourism and e-commerce. For now, we are waiting for the elections to get over so that our budget gets approved".

Source: TravelBiz

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