July 18, 2018 / 9:33 AM / a month ago

Lufthansa to start flights to Israeli Red Sea resort Eilat

JERUSALEM, July 18 (Reuters) - Lufthansa said on Wednesday it will launch four weekly flights to Eilat, the Red Sea resort which Israel hopes to turn into a winter vacation spot for foreign tourists.

More than 175,000 foreign tourists flew into Ovda, a converted military airfield 60 km (40 miles) from Eilat, in the first five months of 2018, double the amount for all of 2017.

Helping spur growth is a government grant of 60 euros ($70) per passenger for airlines starting routes to Eilat.

Lufthansa said it would fly to Ovda from Frankfurt and Munich twice weekly starting Oct. 28.

Eilat, Israel’s southernmost city, borders Jordan and Egypt. It will later be served by the new Ramon International Airport which is expected to open in early 2019.

Since 2015, a number of airlines, mainly low-cost, have been operating direct flights to Ovda, led by Ryanair and WizzAir.

“The number of flights to the city has increased from four weekly flights to more than 60 weekly flights,” said Tourism Minister Yariv Levin.

The Tourism Ministry has a budget of 30 million shekels ($8.25 million) a year for subsidising flights to Ovda.

“We are willing to pay more,” Levin said, adding the ministry is also in talks with British Airways. The airline declined to comment.

International tourist arrivals in Israel hit a record 3.6 million last year, pumping $5.5 billion into the economy. (Reporting by Steven Scheer; editing by Jason Neely)

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