Friday May 5th 2017
Israel is making a blatant attempt to steal Bethlehem’s tourist industry by forcing tour groups to sign a form promising not to book hotels in the occupied West Bank.
Travel agents were informed in a letter from the Interior Ministry that from May 15 their groups will not be allowed to stay in Bethlehem hotels. There has now been some delay, but the change is still going ahead.
The letter includes a “clarification” stating that the groups are permitted to visit Bethlehem and are only being blocked from spending the night there.
An estimated 1 million tourist nights are spent in Bethlehem every year, including overnights by independent travelers. Most are three-star hotels that charge about $22 to $25 per person a night, which is 25% to 50% of what a three-star hotel in Jerusalem costs.
The form relates primarily to groups of Christian tourists that visit Israel who also spend nights in Bethlehem, and not individual tourists, who are not required to receive entry permits in advance.