THOUSANDS OF Palestinians and foreign visitors await the arrival of the Latin Patriarch at Manger Square in Bethlehem on Christmas eve..
(photo credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)
Palestinian municipalities in the West Bank are mulling over the idea of imposing a "tourist fee" on those planning to visit certain cities like Ramallah and Bethlehem, a senior Palestinian official said Friday.
Deputy Mayor of Bethlehem Issam Juha said the fee was merely "symbolic" and would only amount to one US dollar, but added that the extra income could help improve tourist services while visitors trek through the historic city.
"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," Juha told the Palestinian Ma'an news agency.
Yet, Dr. Hamda Taha, an expert on Palestinian tourism, warned that instituting new visitor fees could have unforeseen negative consequences on overall international tourism to Palestine.
"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," Ma'an added.
Thirty-five hotels with an estimated 3,500 rooms housed close to 800,000 visitors to Bethlehem in 2014, which saw over 2.5 million overall visitors to the Palestinian territories.