Bethlehem is benefitting from a rebound in religious pilgrimage tourism this Christmas – with hotels full (as is traditional in the area for the past couple of centuries) and travel-hungry Holy Land visitors thronging the streets.
Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity, which Christians believe to be the site of Jesus’ birth, have unsurprisingly been the main areas of interest.
Israel’s department of tourism is expecting around 120,000 Christian tourists to visit the city this Christmas – not far short of the record high of 150,000 Christmas week visitors logged in 2019. Numbers fell away during the pandemic, but are recovering strongly this year and that trend is expected 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,” the Daily Mail quoted Elias Arja, head of the Bethlehem Hotel Association, as saying.
“Recovery has begun significantly. God willing, we will go back this year to where things were before the coronavirus, and be even better,” said Bethlehem´s mayor, Hanna Hanania.