Banksy’s Bethlehem ‘Walled Off’ hotel boosts Palestine tourism

Posted by Caabu on 10 Nov 2018

Banksy’s Bethlehem ‘Walled Off’ hotel boosts Palestine tourism

by Caabu board member, Vyvyan Kinross

8 November

 

The enigmatic British artist Banksy’s ‘The Walled Off’ Hotel in Bethlehem has generated 50,000 visits from tourists wanting to stay in its nine rooms and in the process created strong interest in Palestine as a tourist destination, according to Palestinian Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Rula Ma’ayah. 

Speaking at a briefing at the Council for Arab-British Understanding (Caabu) in London on Wednesday, Ms Ma’ayah said that Banksy had helped promote the idea of something different in Palestine: ‘These are mainly people interested in culture, the arts and Christian pilgrimage; it is very important that this hotel keeps open in Bethlehem to attract the individual visitor rather than groups’, the Minister said. 

She also revealed that the organisers of this year’s World Travel Market show at Excel Centre in London, where the Palestine Tourism Ministry has a Stand, had tried to prevent posters by Banksy being handed out to visitors to the show; they feature an image of Palestine with the strapline: ‘so good the Israeli army never left’.

Ms Ma’ayah reported that the numbers of rooms available to tourists in the West Bank has grown to 10,000, a fivefold increase since she took over the Ministry in 2012, with new hotels opening in Ramallah and Jericho, and five new hotels in Hebron that are fully booked until next year. She also said that Palestine is increasing its offer in the Islamic tourism sector, targeting a total of 150,000 visitors from Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia over the coming years.

From an all-time low a few years back, there are now 50 licensed and regulated Palestinian guides qualified to take individuals and groups into Jerusalem and across the West Bank. This number is still very low but it has at least risen as a result of dedicated focus and some pressure on the Israeli authorities, starting with Tony Blair whose efforts had been welcome though unsuccessful, the Minister said. ‘He did his best but the Israelis did not agree’, she said.

The Ministry is encouraging more tour operators to work in the country and now nearly half of tourists coming every year to the Holy Land come through Palestinian companies, she said. Despite improvements, complications still exist with the Israeli authorities who can make life difficult for operators; and infrastructure in the OPTs, including roads and lighting, need upgrading Ms Ma’ayah said.