Chinese tourists shun Israel

BEIJING (JTA) — Scheduled tours to Israel during China’s heaviest travel season were canceled.

China Travel Service, one of the country’s major tour companies organizing Chinese travel to Israel, confirmed that its scheduled New Year’s trip was canceled because of tourists’ concerns.

"There’s a war going on," explained a company travel agent.

Israel was added last fall to the list of countries that Chinese tour groups are permitted to visit, and tourism was expected to boom. Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing even joked with Israeli officials when the Approved Destination Status agreement was signed in 2007 that they should start building more hotels.

The first two batches of Chinese tour groups traveled to Israel in September and December, and the trips were booked even before tour companies were legally permitted to advertise.

An El Al staff member in Beijing said the situation in Gaza had an impact on the Israeli airline’s business in China. El Al operates three weekly flights from Beijing and five weekly flights to regional travel hub Hong Kong. Only a few months ago, El Al was considering whether to expand its China-Israel service.

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