The Israel Ministry of Tourism announced on Tuesday the possibility of offering direct flights from Manila to Tel Aviv via flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL).
“This is good news for all Filipinos who have been longing for a spiritual pilgrimage to the Holy Land or a Mediterranean getaway after more than a year of being in the lockdown,” the embassy said in a statement on Tuesday.
Israel Ministry of Tourism director general Amir Halevi said the non-stop flights between Manila and Tel Aviv would be a “game changer.”
“I am pleased to give this important first step to the tourism industry between Israel and the Philippines. Direct flights between our two capitals will be a game-changer for tourism and business connectivity. This time, Israel has a unique advantage as a safe and healthy country. We hope to welcome you soon in Israel!” said Amir Halevi, Director General of Israel Ministry of Tourism.
PAL had earlier announced its plan to do non-stop flights to and from Tel Aviv in October, 2021.
The flag carrier is hoping to serve the growing demand for air linkages between the Philippines and the Holy Land to serve tourists and Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).
“The Philippines is a strong source of potential travelers to Israel, which welcomes Filipinos without requiring a visa. Our countrymen have been longing for a direct flight to the Holy Land for spiritual pilgrimages or for a Mediterranean getaway when the travel climate allows,” PAL Chief Strategy and Planning Officer Dexter Lee said.
“We also look forward to inviting Israelis to visit the Philippines. So our direct flights will help us restart tourism here in our country,” he added.
Philippine passport holders are entitled to a 90-day visa-free entry to Israel.
Around 28,000 Filipinos currently work in Israel, most of whom are based in the neighboring areas of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa.
Israel Ministry of Tourism director for India and the Philippines Sammy Yahia said the visa-free access is a “gift for both countries.”
“Since 2017, we’ve been surpassing our target of Filipinos travelling to Israel. The Philippine market created a foundation for the steady growth in tourism. Visa free is a gift for both countries,” he said.
“Israelis had also taken an interest in visiting the Philippines through the Survivor Israel series. Now they are shooting again another episode in the Philippines,” Yahia added.
Israel is gradually reopening its borders to international travelers after the country’s success in handling the coronavirus pandemic, starting with vaccinated tour groups from May 23, the embassy said.
“We welcome the opening of the direct flight that was delayed due to the pandemic. As you know, Filipinos don’t need a visa to Israel. Many Israelis are also eager to visit the Philippines and go to the beach of Boracay and Palawan. It symbolizes the very closed, historic, and friendly relations between our two countries. It will facilitate conducting business and investments and will strengthen the people-to-people contacts,” Israel Ambassador Rafael Harpaz.
More than 34,000 Filipino tourists have traveled to Israel, an increase of more than 30 percent since it opened an office in Manila in 2017, data from the Ministry of Tourism showed.