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Bethlehem municipality considers introducing 'tourist fee'

May 2, 2015 3:16 P.M. (Updated: May 4, 2015 10:57 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Tourists visiting Palestine may be charged a "tourism fee" when they visit certain cities in the West Bank including Bethlehem and Ramallah, Deputy Mayor of Bethlehem Issam Juha told Ma'an late Friday.

Juha said that the "symbolic fee" would only amount to one US dollar, but he believed it would help improve services offered to tourists while in Bethlehem.

He said that the Bethlehem municipality had already invited consulting companies to put forward proposals for a system to collect the fee.

When the municipal council has selected one of the systems, they will then submit an application to the Palestinian cabinet for approval.

"Tourists have so far been receiving services for free, and now we are considering a mechanism to make them pay a fee which would help us improve public services, including wireless internet, maps and tour signs," the deputy mayor said.

He added that in addition to the "symbolic" one dollar fee, the municipality might also offer an optional "tourist certificate" for about five dollars.

Juha noted that tourism fees are collected in different countries across the world.

He said that in addition to Bethlehem, the municipal councils in Beit Sahour east of Bethlehem and Ramallah in the central West Bank are also considering introducing tourism fees.

However, a Palestinian tourism expert, Dr. Hamdan Taha, warned that introducing the tourism fees could have unintended negative consequences on international tourism in Palestine.

Taha said: "Services must be offered to tourists if they have to pay fees, but they can't be asked to pay fees just for visiting a city. Such a move would drive tourists away and have a negative impact."

He said that tourism yields revenue through hotels and restaurants, and that there there should be mechanisms "to attract tourists and encourage them to stay longer and enjoy services, rather than paying taxes."

In 2014, some 800,000 tourists visited Bethlehem out of a total of 2.56 million visitors to Palestine that year.

There are 35 hotels in Bethlehem with approximately 3,500 rooms.
Tibi / Tubas
Without Peace, the "tourist fee" won't make much difference, since
The Tourists Won't Come, and the hotels will remain largely empty, so
Fatah Needs To Make Peace, before there's nothing left of Palestine.
02/05/2015 19:19
Outlier / USA
Sure, do it. Bethlehem will collect the fee once, and that visitor will never return, PLUS he or she will tell all their friends about the fee, and they won't come at all. It isn't the money, it is the irritation.
02/05/2015 19:23
Michael / Israel
Who knows. I dont think, the problem is $1 fee, but where the collected money goes for. The parking lot fee for a tourist bus in Bethlehem is already about $40.
11/05/2015 21:29
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