Feature: Palestinians in Bethlehem eager to revive tourism after 2-year hiatus from COVID-19

2021-11-25 14:35:49 GMT2021-11-25 22:35:49(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

by Sanaa Kamal

RAMALLAH, Nov. 25 (Xinhua) -- After a nearly two-year hiatus from the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism industry in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem in the West Bank is now eager to have its activity revived, as the Ministry of Tourism decided to resume the reception of tourist groups on Nov. 6.

Sami Thaljieh, manager of the Santa Maria Hotel, is busy preparing his crews to receive local and foreign tourists. Thaljieh told Xinhua that hotel owners and workers are all looking forward to seeing their conditions improved after the ministry's decision.

Many reservations, both domestic and abroad, have been made for Christmas and other upcoming holidays.

In a bid to help the tourism industry, the Ministry of Tourism launched a specialized training program entitled "We Are Ready," which aims at preparing workers in the industry to receive tourists under preventive and precautionary measures.

Bethlehem Governor Kamel Hamid said his city has the ability to revive with the efforts of the workers in the tourism industry.

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, more than 33,000 Palestinians are engaged in the tourism industry across the governorates of the West Bank, with Bethlehem taking the lion's share.

Louay Ayyad, a resident and tour guide of Bethlehem, expressed his hope to restore his profession which he has been taking for 20 years.

Ayyad, a 46-year-old father of two, told Xinhua that tourism is a strong economic driver of the entire country.

Before the pandemic, Ayyad received at least two foreign tourist groups of 30 to 40 people with an average income of 250 U.S. dollars on a daily basis.

"Unfortunately, I have lost my source of income for a long time," he said, adding he had to work as a salesman in a supermarket to support his family.

Ayyad expressed his happiness about starting to see foreign tourists roaming the streets, which means the situation is taking a turn for the better.

Louis Michael, owner of an oriental antique store, confessed his total dependence on tourism, saying there is still no income that could compensate him for the losses.

Nabil Jaqman, owner of another oriental antique shop, lamented that the tourist shops in the old city are still suffering from challenging economic conditions.

Losses of the tourism sector in the Palestinian territories during the past year amounted to about 1.02 billion dollars, according to a joint report issued by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics and the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. Enditem