The Minister's visit to the Philippines will reciprocate the visit of Philippine Tourism Secretary Durano in 2009 and other high-level visits to Israel by Philippine officials recently, including the the 2014 visits of Secretary of National Defense Voltaire Gazmin and Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert Del Rosario.

Minister Levin will meet with his counterpart, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, Jr., and other key officials to discuss ways to boost bilateral tourism cooperation.

In his courtesy call on Minister Levin on 7 September 2015, Philippine Ambassador to Israel Neal Imperial welcomed the surge in the number of Israeli tourists going to the Philippines, with 44% growth for the first half of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014. Last year, statistics from the Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT) showed a total of 8,776 Israeli tourists arrived in the Philippines, again making Israel the third largest tourist market of the Philippines in the Middle East, after Saudi Arabia and UAE.

Ambassador Imperial expressed hope that Israel would succeed in encouraging more Filipinos to visit Israel, considering the spiritual importance of the Holy Land to Filipino Christians, who constitute more than 90% of the country's 100 million population. Minister Levin plans to meet with Philippine tour agencies to encourage them to sell Israel as a major tour destination. Based on statistics from the website of the Israeli Central Bureau Statistics (CBS), a total of 11,300 Filipinos (excluding day visitors and cruise passengers) toured the Holy Land in 2013, making the Philippines the 6th largest market of Israel in Asia.

The Philippine Ambassador recommended that Israel also tap the two million Filipinos working in the Gulf countries and the four million Filipinos in North America for pilgrimage tours. "These Filipinos live in countries geographically closer to the Holy Land and have the financial means to join longer visits," he said.

Minister Levin and Ambassador Imperial agreed that direct flights between the Philippines and Israel need to be established soon to improve air-connectivity and increase the number of tourist arrivals between the two countries. --END--