Beyond pilgrimage, Israel beckons Filipinos with LGBTQ, history and novel creations

Hassan: more Filipinos visiting Israel on special interest tours beyond religious travel

Targeting a 33 per cent growth in inbound from the Philippines to 40,000 pax this year, Israel entices with novel attractions including LGBTQ, history and special interest tours.

Hassan Madah, Israel tourism ministry’s director for India and the Philippines, said that while pilgrimage and religious travel is the largest tourism segment from the only Christian country in Asia, “we have seen a rise in other segments including adventure, LGBTQ and leisure travel and we will see this trend continue to grow in 2019”.

Hassan: more Filipinos visiting Israel on special interest tours beyond religious travel

Indeed, becoming better known are Tel Aviv’s Gay Pride that takes place every second week of June and special interest tours commemorating Israel’s 70th anniversary last year; greater focus on the holocaust including the Yad Vashem museum; and references to the country’s technology, water, agriculture and related sectors, noted Emma Joy Ricamonte, Rajah Travel tours consultant.

The standard pilgrimage and religious tours, which attract high repeat volume, have evolved to include rituals such as wedding, renewal of wedding vows and confirmation, added Ricamonte.

Since Israel’s tourism ministry opened an office in Manila in 2016, arrivals have grown 38 per cent on average from 2016 through 2018 to reach 30,000 last year, compared with a five per cent drop from 2013 through 2015, Madah told TTG Asia.

The Manila office conducts trade events such as roadshows, workshops and seminars in key cities of Manila, Cebu and Davao, and has began participating in the Philippine Travel Agencies Association’s consumer travel show.

Madah added the office will continue to host fam trips for travel agents, media, influencers and celebrities.

He also confirmed that Israel has given Philippine Airlines (PAL) the go-ahead to fly direct from Manila to Tel Aviv. “They are now working on procedures and other formalities before announcing the new route,” he revealed.

Pirkko & Troy Tours general manager Butch Alcantara said that although Israel “is not yet the millennials’ cup of tea”, the market is growing and becoming more competitive as more travel agencies sell the destination and more airlines connect to Israel.

Alcantara added that Israel has become more accessible with several airlines flying from Manila including Emirates, Cathay Pacific, Turkish Airlines, Korean Air, and soon, PAL.

He noted that airlines including El Al fly from Bangkok to Tel Aviv, while others like Kuwait Air, Etihad, and recently Oman Air, fly from Manila to Egypt or Jordan, which could be combined with Israel.

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