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Tour operators unite to promote Palestine as top travel destination

The Palestinian Holy Land Incoming Tour Operators Association (HILTOA) at the World Travel Market in London, UK [Palestinian Mission in the UK]

The Palestinian Holy Land Incoming Tour Operators Association (HILTOA), the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, and other tourist organisations in Palestine were present at this year's World Travel Market in London to promote Palestine as a top destination in the Holy Land.

Ten participating tour operators from Palestine offered UK tourists a variety of tours, from pilgrimages (for all faiths) to history, culture, archaeology and gastronomy excursions.

On the eve of the annual two-day event on Monday, the visiting Palestinian tourism industry representatives were invited by Baroness Morris of Bolton to attend a formal dinner with their UK counterparts at the House of the Lords to explore how they could cooperate. The aim of the dinner was to promote tourism to individual Palestinian cities, including Bethlehem and Hebron, with a special emphasis on showcasing Jerusalem and Palestinian heritage in the city.

Al-Quds Tourism and Heritage Council (ATHC) was introduced as a new umbrella organisation comprising Palestinian travel professionals looking to promote Jerusalem as a Palestinian destination.

Read: Israel calls on its citizens not to travel to Europe

Sami Khoury, co-founder of ATHC and chairman of HLITOA, told TTG Media that the work of the council was already "starting to bear fruit":

"Instead of having ad hoc initiatives this way we are consolidating and putting everything under one umbrella to develop tourism and promote Palestinian heritage," he said.

"Operating in Jerusalem is a very unique situation with Israeli restrictions and regulations and the Palestinian Authority does not have a mandate to do anything so that's where the council comes in," he added.

In the first half of 2017 the United Nations World Tourism Organisation announced that Palestine is the fasted growing tourism destination worldwide. Compared to 2016, inbound tourism to Palestine saw a 57.8 per cent increase.

According to PIPA (Palestine Investment Promotion Agency), the tourism sector makes up nearly 6 per cent of Palestine's GDP, which amounts to approximately $348.9 million.

World Travel Market London is the leading global event for the travel industry to meet industry professionals and secure business deals.

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