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West Bank Tourism

Jericho tourism spikes

Rachelle Kliger  Feb 21, 2010

Maybe it’s the relatively quiet security situation, or perhaps it’s the unusual February heat wave that has lingered over the region since last week – but for whatever reason, the number of tourists flocking to Jericho spiked over the past week, reaching 24,000.

No one in the tourism industry could say exactly how much of an increase this constitutes, but there is a general agreement that Jericho is the Palestinian tourism hotspot.

According to the Palestinian tourism and antiquities police, almost a third of the visitors to Jericho over the past week were foreign tourists, around 12,000 were Palestinians from the West Bank and 4,500 were Palestinians with Israeli citizenship.

The spike in tourism is good news for Jericho’s municipality, which is planning a huge celebration in October 2010 to mark 10,000 years of the West Bank city.

“We’re working on the infrastructure, we’re having tourism projects to improve tourism and we’re also promoting the city through advertisements,” Wiam Ariqat, head of Public Relations and Culture Department at the Jericho Municipality said.

The municipality plans to do this by attracting more private investment into the city.

“Jericho is an international city,” Ariqat said. “In recent times, many tourists have passed through Jericho. We’re focusing on not only having these tourists pass through the city and visit one or two places - we want these tourists to spend more time here, to stop in Jericho, go to the hotels, make special accommodation and have lunch here.”

Channeling the tourists’ holiday money is one of the main challenges to the Israeli and Palestinian tourism sectors, both of whom are vying for the same pockets.

Palestinians often complain that the Israelis organize trips for foreign tourists and make sure the money flows into their hotels, guides, restaurants and tourist attractions, in effect depriving their Palestinian peers of tourism profits.

“They also control the borders, the travel agencies, the promotion, the guides and the transportation,” Ariqat said. “We want to change this idea. For the benefit of the region, they should cooperate because the tourists planning to visit Jericho are planning to visit the whole region – Jericho, Israel, Jordan and Egypt.”

Iyyad Hamdan, director of tourism and archeological sites in Jericho for the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism attributed the recent increase in Jericho’s tourists to the beginning of the tourism season, the pleasant weather and the improved security situation.

“Nowadays the situation is better, but sometimes the checkpoints make things difficult for tourists,” Hamdan said. “If we compare the situation now to the situation in 2000, at the beginning of the Intifada [Palestinian uprising], it’s quieter now and there are more tourists.”

But Hamdan cited tense relations between Israel’s current government and the Palestinian Authority (PA) as the reason for a lack of cooperation between their respective tourism officials.

Ghassan Sadeq, the finance and business support manager at the InterContinental Hotel in Jericho said that except in early 2009, during the period of war in Gaza, there has been an upward trend in Jericho’s tourist numbers since 2008.

But sadly, Sadeq said, despite the encouraging figures, the reality is that tourists still prefer to stay in hotels in Jerusalem regardless of the competitive rates his hotel offers.

“In 2007, we went to Israeli travel agencies and gave them brochures for our hotels,” he said. “We said ‘if you send us tourists, we will arrange for their security, there are no problems in Jericho.’ But they didn’t send even one person from their tourist groups. It’s still a problem.”

Sadeq believes that under the current political climate and rate of cooperation between the two sides, the only instance in which Israeli tour operators will send tourists to hotels in Bethlehem or Jericho is if the hotels in Jerusalem are fully booked.

Last month it was reported that Israel’s Central Command Chief and the head of the Civil Administration would allow Israeli tour guides to travel to Jericho and Bethlehem with groups of non-Israeli tourists and guide them in the Palestinian Authority territories, upon a request from the Israeli Tourism Ministry.

Ariqat expressed skepticism about the benefit of this plan.

“It will maybe help increase the number of tourists, but they will send their messages to the tourists and we’re not interested in that,” she said. “We have our message and our vision and we like to be in direct contact with the tourists.”

Jericho tourism spikes
Palestinian bedouin ambles past the Intercontinental Hotel in Jericho / Image via


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