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Minister: Tourism in Palestine improving since Gaza war end

Oct. 12, 2014 12:25 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 13, 2014 10:45 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Tourism in the West Bank and Jerusalem has been improving since the end of the Israeli military offensive against the Gaza Strip in August, the Palestinian minister of tourism said Saturday.

Rula Maayeh told Ma'an that tourist cancellations are down from a high of 60 percent during the war to only around 30 percent now, and that the rate is gradually going down.

She added that Christmas would be a good opportunity to encourage tourism in Palestine after the serious problems faced by the industry during 50 days of destructive warfare in the Gaza Strip.

Maayeh said that the number of tourists visiting Palestine is expected to increase noticeably during Christmas celebrations over December 2014 and January 2015.

The ministry, she added, has been contacting tourist companies all over the world and partaking in international exhibitions in an effort to publicize Palestinian archeological and religious sites ahead of the winter season.

Several countries which barred their citizens from visiting Palestine during the war have already ended the ban and the ministry has been contacting other countries to convince them to end the ban on travel to Palestine, Maayeh noted.

She added that preparations for Christmas celebrations had already commenced as ministry officials had already had two meetings with municipal councils for coordination.

Asked about her recent visit to the Gaza Strip, Maayeh said it was an opportunity to check up on the touristic sites in the coastal enclave which sustained serious damage during the Israeli military offensive.

Rehabilitation of touristic places damaged by Israel is expected to cost more than $18 million, according to a study by the ministry to be submitted to the Gaza reconstruction conference being held in Cairo Sunday.

Tourism is a major source of revenue for the Palestinian economy and employs tens of thousands across the West Bank, although Israeli restrictions on movement and the continued military occupation have severely limited potential.

The Israeli blockade of Gaza in force since 2006, meanwhile, has completely killed the tourism industry there.
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