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Palestine is 2017's fastest-growing tourist destination Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Palestine is 2017's fastest-growing tourist destination

Is Palestine's tourism boom thanks to Banksy? [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 August, 2017

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'Banksy tourism' could be behind the massive tourism boost in Palestine, but whatever it is attracting visitors, it's helping bring the world's attention to the Palestinian struggle.
It could be the lure of Bethlehem's Banksy hotel offering "the worst view in the world" that is attracting tourists in their thousands to the West Bank, but whatever has propelled Palestine to the top of the list of 2017's fastest-growing tourist destinations is helping bring the world's attention to their struggle.

With a superior media machine on the other side of the West Bank Wall, which all of the hotel's windows face, Palestinians are fighting a propaganda war as much as a physical resistance to Israel's illegal occupation.

So it's dominance of the UN World Tourism Organisation list of booming tourist spots, boasting a 57.8 percent increase in international arrivals so far this year compared to the first half of 2016, could garner as much international support for the occupied territories as it does economic benefits.

If the stream of tourists to Palestine – arriving via number 10 entry Israel – continues at the same rate, it could finish the year with a total of 630,000 holidaymakers.

Presumably because visitors arriving in Palestine do so via Tel Aviv, tourists to Israel are up by 25.1 percent this year, which could take its overall number of holidaymakers to 3.7 million by the end of the year.

Yet the benefits to Israel via Palestine-bound tourists has led many to reject and boycott visits to the occupied territory.

Most Arab governments prohibit their citizens from visiting Palestine, considering dealing with Israel and recognising its authority as "normalisation" of the illegal occupation.

Some also believe the promotion of Israel as a cultural travel hub distracts from the Palestinian conflict, in which Israel enforces an oppressive and deadly siege, with checkpoints and demolitions, fuelling economic struggle and growing indignities.

With Egypt and Tunisia also making UNWTO's top 10 list, with an increase of 51 percent and 32.5 percent respectively, the figures indicate a turnaround for tourism to the Middle East, which has seen an overall 10 percent boost in visitors across the region compared to a 4 percent decline in 2016.

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