Quotes: MENA   Enter Symbol: NewsLetter: Search: advanced

Bethlehem eyes tourist boom after dark decade  Join our daily free Newsletter

MENAFN - AFP - 22/12/2013
No. of Ratings : 0
Add to Mixx!



(MENAFN - AFP) After a decade of unrest, Bethlehem has seen a surge in visits to Christ's traditional birthplace, raising hopes of a tourism bonanza in the West Bank town despite Israel's separation barrier.

The Palestinian territories' top tourist destination is a victim of the barrier which cuts off the town from nearby Jerusalem, just 10 kilometres (six miles) away.

Israel began work on its sprawling barrier -- dubbed the "apartheid wall" by Palestinians -- in 2002 at the height of the second intifada, or uprising.

It defends the construction as a crucial protective measure, pointing to a drop in attacks inside Israel as proof of its success.

Palestinian tourism minister Rola Maayah sees the barrier as a key obstacle to encouraging visitors to the town.

"Bethlehem, one of our main tourist attractions is circled by 27 settlements. As a result, we are surrounded by high walls, fences and menacing checkpoints which put tourists off," Maayah said.

"We could develop tourism, attract people from all over the world, but it's not possible because of the Israeli occupation," she added.

The expansion of nearby Israeli settlements has deliberately helped to isolate the city, Palestinians say.

But since a UNESCO decision in June 2012 to grant world heritage status to Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity -- hailed as a "historic" diplomatic victory by the Palestinians -- the town has been eyeing a tourist bonanza that could boost the local economy.

In Bethlehem, where nearly one quarter of its 25,000 residents are unemployed, two out of three households rely on tourism for their income.

Between 2011 and 2012, more than two million people visited the town. The record crowds brought much-needed revenues after a tough decade for tourism during the second intifada.

"There was a significant jump in tourism in Palestine in 2012 with an 18 percent rise in the number of visitors," Maayah said. A little over half of these were foreigners.

With 3,800 rooms, Bethlehem accounts for nearly half of the West Bank's hotel capacity. But the occupancy rate (65 to 70 percent) is unevenly distributed throughout the year.

"We are booked up in advance for Christian holidays, but there are lots of empty rooms the rest of the year," said the deputy head of the Bethlehem board of commerce, Fairouz Khoury.

To redress this imbalance, Vera Baboun, a Palestinian Catholic and Bethlehem's first female mayor since 2012, aims to encourage visitors to stay longer.

"Our visitors should know that Bethlehem is not just about the nativity," said Baboun.

The pilgrims -- who mostly come from Russia, the United States and Poland -- descend on the town by the coachload, queueing to see the Church of the Nativity, one of Christianity's oldest and holiest, leaving immediately afterwards.

Those who linger for more than a few hours are rare.

"This year our motto is 'Come home for Christmas,' which means: take the time to wander around the alleys of the Old City, talk to the residents, help them to live here," Baboun explained.

"Bethlehem is not a museum," she said.

Palestinian tourist guides have also complained they suffer because of the favourable treatment granted to their Israeli competitors.

Some 150 Israelis are authorised to work as guides in Bethlehem, compared with 42 Palestinians permitted to work in Israel and east Jerusalem, the chamber of commerce said.

"They take more than 80 percent of the market," complained Mohammed Awadallah, a Palestinian guide.

But Israeli authorities, who have long courted the lucrative market in catering to Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land, deny the accusations.

"We do everything we can so that Christians can visit the holy sites," Israeli Tourism Minister Uzi Landau said.


 


AFP




  MENA News Headlines
 Sep 30 2016 - Italy's Eni confirms renewable energy deal with EgyptMENAFN
(MENAFN) Italian oil Eni agreed a common strategy with Egypt to construct renewable energy projects in the country.Moreover, the first project will be a solar plant in Sinai with output of 50 MW, ...

 Sep 30 2016 - Oman's budget deficit reaches USD10.83bn in H1MENAFN
(MENAFN) Oman's budget deficit increased and crossed the RO4bn mark for Jan-July period this year as government revenue continued to hurt by weak oil prices.Meanwhile, the deficit grew by 68 percent ...

 Sep 30 2016 - UAE hotels to cut costs by 20pctMENAFN
(MENAFN) Hotels in the UAE could cut their costs by more than 20 percent by reducing their energy and water consumption.Moreover, hotels with poor environmental policies consume three times more ...

 Sep 29 2016 - Kimberly process chair steps up momentum on Africa initiativeMENAFN Press
(MENAFN Press) Zimbabwe was the next stop on his extensive tour of African States, to give Africa a Voice, for which the Kimberley Process was originally intended. In Harare, the KP Chair met with ...

 Sep 29 2016 - Global Virtual Reality Market 2016 Share, Trend, Segmentation and Forecast To 2020MENAFN Press
(MENAFN Press) Global Virtual Reality Market 2016 Share, Trend, Segmentation and Forecast To 2020 next five years in an average of 106% CAGR; by 2020 over 430 billion products will be sold, and 21 ...

 Sep 29 2016 - NY Gov. Cuomo's Justice Center a Corruption SchemeMENAFN Press
(MENAFN Press) NY Gov. Cuomo's Justice Center a Corruption Scheme Jonathan Carey "Champion for the Disabled" Born September 12,1993 Killed by caregivers on February 15,2007 The corruption is ...

 Sep 29 2016 - Solving the last jigsaws to minimize risks, optimize costs and accelerate commercialization at Biosimilars North AmericaMENAFN Press
(MENAFN Press) Solving the last jigsaws to minimize risks, optimize costs and accelerate commercialization at Biosimilars North America The 3rd annual Biosimilars North America by popular demand, ...

 Sep 29 2016 - Haptic Interface Market 2016 market Share, Current and Future Players, Analysis and Forecast to 2022.MENAFN Press
(MENAFN Press) Haptic Interface Market 2016 market Share, Current and Future Players, Analysis and Forecast to 2022. Global Haptic Interface Market Information, by Components (Hardware, Software), ...

 Sep 29 2016 - Cold Forging Machine: Consumption, Demand, Sales, Competitor and Forecast 2016 2021MENAFN Press
(MENAFN Press) Cold Forging Machine: Consumption, Demand, Sales, Competitor and Forecast 2016 – 2021 Cold Forging Machine Global Market 2016 Analysis and Forecast to 2021 PUNE, INDIA, September ...

 Sep 29 2016 - Global Wind Power Market Top Manufactures, Market Demands, Trends, Industry Growth Analysis & Forecast 2021MENAFN Press
(MENAFN Press) Global Wind Power Market Top Manufactures, Market Demands, Trends, Industry Growth Analysis & Forecast 2021 Global Wind Power Market Information Report by Application (Residential ...

more...


 





Google

 
 

Middle East North Africa - Financial Network

MENAFN News Market Data Countries Tools Section  
 

Middle East North Africa - Financial Network
Arabic MENAFN

Main News
News By Industry
News By Country

Search News
Market Indices
Quotes & Charts

Global Indices
Arab Indices

Commodoties

Oil & Energy

Currencies Cross Rates
Currencies Updates
Currency Converter

USA Stocks
Arab Stocks
 

Algeria 
Bahrain 
Egypt 
Iraq
Jordan 
Kuwait 
Lebanon
Morocco 
Oman 
Palestine
Qatar 
Saudi Arabia 
Syria
Tunisia 
UAE 
Yemen

Weather
Economic Calendar
Financial Glossary


Financial Calculators

RSS Feeds [XML]

Corporate Monitor

Events

Real Estate
Submit Your Property

Arab Research
Buy a Research

Press Releases
Submit your PR

Join Newsletters


 
© 2014 menafn.com All Rights Reserved.  Terms of Service | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | Advertise | About MENAFN | Career Opportunities | Feedback | Help