If not because of a de facto war with Hamas, then due to the economic crisis, 2009 saw a considerable lull in tourism; while 2008 welcomed 3 million visitors to the Jewish State’s shining shore. Proudly, Israel’s tourism minister, Stas Misezhnikov, announced that Israel received 3.45 million tourists in 2010. A recent record!

According to Misezhnikov, one-fifth of the tourists came from the United States, followed by visitors from France, Russia, the United Kingdom and Germany. More than two-thirds were Christian and a shocking 3 percent were Jewish.

Meanwhile, entrepreneur and former chief operating officer of EasyJet, Edward Winter, plans to launch a new airline, “Jet Israel,” offering low-cost flights to the Holy Land.

Winter, who recently met with Israeli aviation officials and Stas Misezhenikov, claims he can jump start an aviation revolution in Israel, comparable to EasyJet’s success in Europe.

Winter, as part of negotiations, requested that Israel provide the airline with a safety net. He insists on a financial compensation should the company book occupancies between 70% and 90%. Occupancy above the latter percentage, will not reward him an compensation.

The Israeli Tourism Ministry has already drafted financial models for the new airline and consulted officials of the Finance Ministry concerning the safety net, estimated to reach approximately NIS 100 million (about $28 million).

Winter’s other baby, EasyJet, Europe’s largest low-cost airline, operates flights to Israel from London, Geneva and Basel. It has not managed, however, to offer cheap tickets at the target price. EasyJet will operate flights from Tel Aviv to Basel 3 times a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays; flights from Tel Aviv depart at 1:40 pm and arrive in Basel at 5:20 pm; flights from Basel depart at 7:55 am and arrive in Tel Aviv at 12:55 p.m. The starting fares from Tel Aviv to Basel are 39.99 euros (roughly $53) and from Basel to Tel Aviv 42 euros ($56).

During a press conference to bid farewell to 2010, Misezhenikov told the press:

“EasyJet is not a low-cost company. Instead of pulling the prices of all the other airlines down, it pushed them up…We need a real low-cost company with truly cheap prices. We are formulating ideas to operate low-cost companies that fly directly to Israel and are examining the subject with Israeli and foreign airline companies…”

Misezhnikov added that he would like to expand the marketing of Israel to destinations such as India and South Korea, both bearing large Evangelical Christians populations.