The Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities has launched a campaign, 'Bethlehem, in a different light', to encourage Palestinian citizens to visit the city and other West Bank sites over the holiday season.
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.
Therefore, Rola Maayah, the PA's Tourism and Antiquities Minister, organised a three-day event, including introductory trips to historical and religious monuments and the city's ancient markets. She also arranged a press conference for a group of media professionals, influencers and tourism agents.
Israel reopened its borders to vaccinated tourists earlier this month, but relatively few are expected to travel to Bethlehem this holiday season, and not nearly as many as in the record-breaking year preceding the pandemic.
Visitors in attendance to the event included Kamel Hamid, the governor of Bethlehem, the Mayor of Bethlehem, Anton Salman, the Japan International Cooperation Council, Toshiya Abe, the representative of the private sector, George Abu Aita, among others.
"Of course the numbers are very few, but as a start, as a beginning, I think it's good," Maayah told Reuters. "Hopefully very soon these few hundreds will be a few thousand."
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.