Tourism industry in Gaza

Added On August 31, 2016

The tourism industry in the Palestinian Gaza Strip has been suffering a serious decline.
It comes after Israel and Egypt imposed restrictions on their crossings with the territory that has been ruled by Islamic Hamas movement since 2007.
The coastal territory is home to some 1.9 million people.
It has been blockaded by Israel since Islamic Hamas movement seized control of the tiny enclave by force in 2007. 
Egypt, which also shares border with Gaza, has been imposing restrictions on opening the Rafah crossing with the enclave after the removal of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013.
The Gaza Strip was once a prominent tourist hub in the 1990s. It used to have an international airport, but it was destroyed by Israel in 2002. 
All these have delivered heavy blows to the ailing tourism industry in Gaza.
Wassim Mushtaha is an owner of a tourism agency in Gaza. He said his business has been going down rapidly for almost a decade due to the closure of the crossings.
SOUNDBITE: WASSIM MUSHTAHA, Tourism agency owner.
"I almost have no customers. People are more willing to travel to Europe and other Arab countries. Residents in Gaza want to travel, but traveling is extremely limited because of the blockade. We barely received customers in the past decade. The closure has ruined the business."
To avoid more losses, Gaza tourism agencies shifted to organize annual religious trips to Saudi Arabia for pilgrims, a season that can help their business keep going. 
Some agencies coordinate registrations for students who can travel for education abroad.
They also focus on domestic tourism, which is really poor. During the year, Gaza’s 22 hotels have been almost empty with some hotels receiving a number of foreign humanitarian workers who come to visit the territory for a few days.
According to official statistics, the losses of Gaza's 109 tourist facilities reach six million U.S. dollars a year.
SOUNDBITE: SALAH ABU HASIRA, Gaza Hotels Corporation.
"Tourism in Gaza is almost dead. Tourism agencies, resorts and restaurants mainly focus on local tourists since foreign tourists cannot come due to the closure of the crossings."
Many Gazans have never left Gaza for tourism since they were born. 
"It is a misery. I want to travel. There are many people like me. The closed crossings destroyed our dreams. I am getting older and I started to lose hope."
"Living in Gaza is like living in a cage. I wonder why my friends and I cannot travel just as young people in other countries do. "
Egypt and Israel say they cannot keep their borders open freely as long as Hamas, a foe to Israel and a critic of the current Egyptian regime, is controlling Gaza.