Palestine's tourism revenue has continued to fall due to the coronavirus pandemic, officials have confirmed. There was an estimated loss of $1.5 billion last year, they added on World Tourism Day.
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) and the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities the impact of the pandemic on the tourism industry has been huge with mandatory closures imposed upon hotels, tour operators, tourist sites, facilities, and restaurants. More than 30,000 workers within the industry have been affected directly.
The number of hotel guests during the first half of 2021 in the West Bank was 58,765, of whom more than 77 per cent were Palestinian citizens of Israel; 22.5 per cent were local residents and visitors, but only 0.3 per cent were visitors from abroad. There were no hotel guests recorded in Bethlehem during this period, making it the most affected location nationwide, said the official report.
However, tourist sites in the occupied West Bank witnessed a slight improvement in the number of local visitors, at 880,000. This was an increase of 48 per cent during the first half of 2021, compared with the same period last year.
Moreover, Jericho and Al-Aghwar Governorate witnessed a record increase of 72 per cent in hotel guests during 2021 so far. In previous years, they had not gone above seven per cent of the total number of hotel guests in the West Bank.
The tourism sector, especially religious tourism, has always been vital to the Palestinian economy and has attracted substantial investment. It makes an important contribution to Palestine's GDP but has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic.