Jerusalem: Keen to tap the vast opportunities presented by the growing Indian tourism sector, Israel on Sunday announced that it will open a tourism office in Mumbai. Israel said it wants to further boost bilateral ties and take steps in consultation with Indian authorities to double the number of tourist inflow from the Asian country to the Holy land and vice versa.

"We are opening an office of the ministry of tourism in Mumbai which shows that we give a lot of significance to our relationship with India," Israel's tourism minister, Stas Misezhnikov, said addressing a joint press conference with his India counterpart Subodh Kant Sahai.

The potential for enhancing cooperation in the tourism sector is very good. "Now tourist inflow to India from Israel and tourist outflow from India to Israel is equal", Misezhnikov said.

"About 50,000 Israelis go to India every year and the same number of Indians are visiting Israel. We want to double this number in three years through mutual cooperation", Misezhnikov emphasised.

Sahai said that the two countries have agreed on cooperation in many areas that will help "draw the road map" for promoting tourism in India as well as Israel.

"We have decided to have a tourism development forum with representation from all stakeholders, including travel agents, hoteliers and tour operators and even friends from the media, who can give advice as to how to promote tourism", the Indian Minister said.

Outlining the vast opportunity presented by India in the tourism sector, Sahai said that "India needs convention centres, exhibition centres and more than 200,000 hotel rooms."

He also pointed out steps taken by the government to boost investment in the tourism sector by allowing 100 percent FDI and declaring it as an infrastructure category sector, which will further enhance bank loan facilities for willing participants in the sector.

Sahai, who is on a four-day visit to Israel, also emphasised on the fast growing outbound travel from India.

"Average Indian has now become a great traveler. 80 percent of Indians are economically ready to match any place in the world. Our outbound tourism has increased four times and Israel is one of the prime destinations, given heritage linkages", he emphasised.

The two ministers also agreed upon the need to strengthen connectivity between the two countries by introducing new direct flights that can accommodate travelers seven days a week.

Currently Israeli carrier, El Al, flies between Tel Aviv and Mumbai thrice a week.

(Agencies)

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