The tourism industry in Bethlehem is back on track after a two-year gap due to the coronavirus pandemic. The tension generated by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is having a minimal effect on Bethlehem’s tourism sector as the streets of the city are thronged with tourist groups and hotels are completely booked. A large number of tourists are being seen in significant places like the Church of the Nativity and in Manger Square, which houses an enormous Christmas tree. Being the birthplace of Jesus Christ, Christmas is the busiest season for the tourism industry in Bethlehem and before the pandemic, thousands of tourists and pilgrims from various parts of the world arrived in Bethlehem to celebrate Christmas.
BETHLEHEM, West Bank — Business is bouncing back in Bethlehem after two years in the doldrums during the coronavirus pandemic, lifting spirits in the traditional birthplace of Jesus ahead of the Christmas holiday.
Streets are bustling with tour groups. Hotels are fully booked, and months of deadly Israeli-Palestinian fighting appears to be having little effect on the vital tourism industry.
Elias Arja, head of the Bethlehem hotel association, said that tourists are hungry to visit the Holy Land’s religious sites after suffering through lockdowns and travel restrictions in recent years. He expects the rebound to continue into next year.
“We expect that 2023 will be booming and business will be excellent because the whole world, and Christian religious tourists especially, they all want to return to the Holy Land,” said Arja, who owns the Bethlehem Hotel.
On a recent day, dozens of groups from virtually every continent posed for selfies in front of the Church of the Nativity, built on the grotto where Christians believe Jesus was born. A giant
Christmas tree sparkled in the adjacent Manger Square, and tourists packed into shops to buy olive wood crosses and other souvenirs.
Christmas is normally peak season for tourism in Bethlehem, located in the West Bank just a few miles southeast of Jerusalem. In pre-pandemic times, thousands of pilgrims and tourists from around the world came to celebrate.
But those numbers plummeted during the pandemic. Although tourism hasn’t fully recovered, the hordes of visitors are a welcome improvement and encouraging sign.
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