Bethlehem set for a Merry Christmas: More rooms, more inns and part of its manger back
As the Christmas decorations go up in Manger Square, Bethlehem is preparing for its best Christmas for two decades, the town’s mayor and hoteliers say.
Five new hotels are in the pipeline and existing ones are expanding. The town has even extended the opening hours of the Church of the Nativity, revered by Christians worldwide as the place of Jesus’ birth.
But even after three years of relative peace and prosperity, people are still nervous in the small Palestinian town, a few miles south of Jerusalem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
So dependent has Bethlehem become on tourist income that an upsurge of violence anywhere in the volatile Middle East - not just in its near vicinity - spells financial disaster, with nervous tour groups prone to canceling months ahead.
Sitting in his municipality office overlooking the newly lit Christmas tree in Manger Square, Mayor Anton Salman said Bethlehem looked set to improve upon the 1.5 million visitors it received last year.
“Since three years (ago), things are going up, this year is better than 2018 and 2018 was better than 2017 and it is a continuous increase in the number of tourists who are coming to the city,” Salman told Reuters.
3rd Dec 2019