Tourism in Palestine suffers $200 million loss amid Gaza war, W. Bank raids

Tourism in Palestine suffers $200 million loss amid Gaza war, W. Bank raids
Tourism in the Palestinian territories has been negatively impacted by Israel's ferocious military campaign, leading to job losses and hotel closures.
3 min read
28 December, 2023
Bethlehem, considered the birthplace of Jesus, is largely dependent on religious tourism [Getty/file photo]

The Palestinian territories have lost out on an estimated $200 million in tourist revenue as a result of Israel’s brutal military onslaught on Gaza, official data has shown.

Tourism, particularly in Bethlehem, has declined by 100 percent according to the Palestinian Ministry of Economy, following repeated closures and raids which have intensified since Israel's war, costing millions of shekels.

Seventy-eight hotels, 90 antique stores, and 450 crafts operators in the city have faced losses leading to the complete halting of their work, according to experts.

Samir Hazboun, head of the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said only 118 tourists have checked into Bethlehem hotel rooms this month, in the city where such accommodations number at roughly 5,700.

In an interview with Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, The New Arab’s Arabic-language service, Hazboun said that "activities relating to hotels and tourism have been harmed with commercial factories only operating with a production capacity estimated at 30 percent".

Bethlehem, revered in Christian tradition as the birthplace of Jesus, usually welcomes thousands of tourists and pilgrims every year, typically around and during the Christmas season.

Before the start of Israel’s military campaign on Gaza, tourism in the city had picked up, receiving around one and a half million visitors by September. Prior to the end of last year, the industry had dipped significantly due to coronavirus-related lockdowns and restrictions.

Additionally, a significant number of sectors and professions are impacted by the ongoing decline in tourism, such as tour guides, photographers, pottery workshops and street vendors. Restaurants, clothing and souvenir shops are also faced with economic difficulties.

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Elias Al-Arja, the head of the Arab Hotels Association in Bethlehem, confirmed to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that almost all of the governorate’s hotels are closed.

"Only 400 out 3000 workers remain in the hotel tourism sector, with hotels being no longer able to pay financial dues, as the losses of the tourism sector since the start of the war on Gaza amount to approximately 40 million shekels, which means a 100% loss compared to the usual financial income annually from the holiday period."

The tourism sector is among the first domains to be directly affect by the war in Gaza, where over 21,110 have been killed since October 7. Israeli forces have also gone on to impose a complete blockade in the territory, depriving residents of fuel, food and water. Unemployment in Gaza are also heightened, with nearly 66 percent jobs lost over the past two and a half months.

Al-Arja warned that a breakthrough in the tourism sector can't be expected until at least six months after the war ends, indicating the lack of alternative plans to revive the industry.