Tourists in Israel
Tourists in Israel Israel news photo: Flash 90

Two hundred of Spain's top tour operators are set to meet in Israel for the first time as part of their annual Spanish Tour Operator Association's convention.

The gathering, to be held November 11-14 in Jerusalem, will mark 25 years of diplomatic relations between the Jewish State and Spain.

Participants will visit various sites around the country and will meet with representatives from Israel's tourism industry.

The convention, initiated by Israel's Ministry of Tourism, is aimed at introducing Spain's largest tour operators to the Israeli tourism product.

Earlier this week, a group of 700 Catholic pilgrims arrived from Italy on a week-long mission headed by the archbishop of MIlan, a central figure in the Italian Catholic Church.

"Visiting Israel and the Holy Land has become a popular product," noted Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov, "contributing to record numbers in incoming tourism in 2010 and 2011." He estimated that annual revenue from incoming tourism, including Israeli airlines, is approximately NIS 17 billion.

The Israel government tourism office in Italy is promoting tourism to Israel by highlighting pilgrimages, which comprises about 65 percent of the tourism traffic from Italy to Israel.

Last year was a record year for tourism from the Mediterranean country, with 157,000 tourists arriving in Israel -- a 30 percent increase compared to 2009.