Arkia plane at Eilat airport (illustrative)
Arkia plane at Eilat airport (illustrative)Flash90

The Tourism Ministry is offering a new set of travel incentives, it announced Monday, in order to encourage Europeans to visit the port city of Eilat.  

The ministry will offer an incentive of €45 ($48.50) per passenger to aviation companies operating direct flights into Ovdah, the airport that serves Eilat, during the upcoming winter season 2015/2016. 

Eilat has suffered from a drop of tens of percentage points in incoming tourism from Europe following Operation Protective Edge. In addition, incoming tourism is also affected by the economic crisis in Russia, which is the second largest source country for incoming tourism (after the USA) and by the high prices relative to the competition.

During the previous winter season, from September 2013 to February 2014, about 40,000 tourists came to Eilat as opposed to 12,000 in the same period this year.

This winter, 3-4 weekly flights arrived from Europe, as opposed to 15-20 weekly flights in the previous winter season.

The decline from Russia has been even greater: during 2015, only 2 weekly flights flew into Ovdah, as opposed to 8-9 direct flights in 2014.

In order to increase the numbers of international direct flights into Ovdah, a financial incentive for the airlines was required.  

The incentive will be offered for the period between the Jewish holidays of Sukkot 2015 and Passover 2016 for up to 80,000 tourists. The directive is addressed to aviation companies and tourism wholesalers and any other tourism body who operates charter or scheduled flights into Ovdah from any international destination.

"We welcome this directive, which is a breakthrough that will lead to significantly increased tourism traffic to Eilat," outgoing Tourism Minister Uzi Landau stated Monday. "The Tourism Ministry invests great effort in bringing foreign tourists back to Eilat and, after investigating alternatives to incentivizing charter and scheduled flights into Ovdah, we found that this is indeed the best incentive."

"Tourism accounts for about 80% of the Eilat economy and this process will strengthen all the different sectors that are dependent on tourism," he added.