High hotel prices in Jerusalem are leading to increased demand for hotel rooms in Bethlehem and Jericho, according to George Abu-Aita, vice president of the Arab Hotel Association in the Palestinian Authority, who participated Monday in the Herzliya Conference on Tourism.
"We have many three-star hotels, and that's what pilgrims are looking for," he said. "We also have four- and five-star hotels, and our rates are half of what hotels in Jerusalem are asking for.
"Tourism is a bridge for peace and that is why I am here, in order to explain what is going on in Bethlehem in terms of tourism," added Abu-Aita, who spoke at a panel on the trends in accommodation for incoming tourists.
"Tourists are coming in to Bethlehem to see the Church of the Nativity and Herodion and because overnight accommodation is cheaper there. Pilgrims feel good in Bethlehem, especially in the family hotels.
“One and a half million visitors come to Bethlehem every year and 20% of them stay in the city. We work mainly with groups from Europe – Italy, Spain, Holland and Russia. We also have some tourists from India and Nigeria, who stay one or two nights.
"Bethlehem, like Israel,
suffers from the difficult times in the region and in 2004 all the hotels in Bethlehem were closed. Since that time, we began excellent cooperation with the Israel Tourism Ministry and we are satisfied with the results and we hope to continue this fruitful cooperation."