TEL AVIV, Israel -- Tourism Ministry says deal between two countries will increase number of Ukrainian visitors by 40%.
Israelis traveling to the Ukraine no longer need an entry visa, and Ukrainians do not need a visa to enter Israel, following an agreement signed between the two nations.
The Ministry of Tourism estimates that the development will raise the number of Ukrainians traveling to Israel by 40% compared to last year.
Up to 140,000 tourists are expected to come from the Eastern European coutry in 2011, contributing an estimated $100 million to the Israeli economy.
In 2010, 292,000 passengers boarded flights on the Israel-Ukraine line, a 24% increase compared with2009. Tens of thousands of Ukrainians also made day trips into Israel, crossing over the Egyptian border or taking charter flights from Antalya, Turkey.
The price of a visa to Ukraine was anywhere between NIS 150 ($41) and NIS 4,650 ($1,265), depending on the type.
Currently, 31 weekly flights transport passengers between the two nations, 16 of them operated by Aerosvit Airlines and six by El Al.
Arkia is expected to launch two additional weekly flights in the coming months.
Israelis in Ukraine
Kiev, which lies on the banks of the Dnieper River, is abundant in attractions such as churches, museums, parks and Jewish sites.
The ancient Kiev Monastery of the Caves is a major tourist attraction, as it the Lover's Bridge in Kreshchatik Park, the perfect setting for a marriage proposal.
Another popular site is Mariinsky Park, where statues and fountains are plentiful. On the outskirts of Kiev is Babi Yar, the ravine where tens of thousands of Jews were massacred by Nazis in 1941.
According to Aerosvit Israel General Manager Avi Schwartz, approximately 100,000 Israelis traveled to Ukraine last year.
Some 40,000 of them were Breslov followers, who went to Uman to visit Rebbe Nachman of Breslov's tomb, while others went to visit families, took vacations or made business trips.
"The cancelation of visas will multiply the number of tourists traveling from Israel to Ukraine," Schwartz said.
"The high price of visas deterred many people who wanted to visit Ukraine but did not want to pay hundreds of shekels for an entry visa."
Schwartz also mentioned that Ukraine is preparing to receive an increased number of visitors because it was chosen to host the Euro soccer championships in 2012.
He noted that that the competition between airlines is driving flight prices down.