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Wednesday
Jun092010

Tourism and Palestine

With Gaza back at the top of the news, “Tourism” and “Palestine” seem like an incompatible pair: in areas of conflict, tourism is usually one of the first casualties (along with the wellbeing of families whose livelihood depends on it). Yet the New York Times Sunday "Travel" section just published a major “Next Stop” story on Ramallah, the defacto Palestinian capital (article and slideshow)

Perhaps it shouldn’t be such a surprise. Because of its climate and culture, the Mediterranean is one of the world’s greatest tourist magnets - think Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, and pretty much everything in between. There’s no reason that, if the conflict could be resolved, the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank shouldn’t put their beaches, ancient cities, archeological sites, and stunning landscapes at the disposal of visitors from around the world.

In fact, they already do. The Times reports that the West Bank had more than 1 million visitors in 2009. A new hotel by the Swiss chain Mövenpic is due to open in Ramallah this year, and the Palestine Investment Fund is trying to develop a resort along the Palestinian edge of the Dead Sea.

RAND’s  Arc project recognized tourism as an important sector of the economy in a prospective Palestinian state, and the Arc itself was in part designed to accommodate visitors arriving at an international airport in Gaza and linking them to the cities and sites of the West Bank. While conflict makes it harder to imagine, it should be remembered that places once synonymous with conflict – Berlin, Beirut, Cyprus, Croatia – are now magnets for international travelers. Planning now for Palestinian tourism – especially by providing a modern public transport system rather than relying on rental cars – makes environmental and economic sense, and is a key part of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s Two-Year Statehood Plan.

Modern café in Ramallah

 

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