Arabic/Eng/Nat

The Gaza Strip is unlikely to feature on a list of the Mediterranean’s top holiday resorts, but that may change if the Palestinian Authority gets its way.

New resources are being pushed into hotels and tourist sites in the hope that the region can win a bigger slice of the lucrative holiday market.

Israel currently earns around 3 billion dollars a year from the holiday trade and the Palestinians now hope that they can boost the flow of tourist dollars.

But the years of negative images from the region are proving a tough barrier in the fight to lure new visitors to the region.

Its a side of the Gaza Strip that rarely makes it onto the world’s television screens.

Several new luxury hotels have sprung up on the Mediterranean coast and many others are under construction.

But many of the businessmen investing in the tiny holiday industry are finding it a tough marketplace.

Basel Elaiweh, owner of the Windmill Hotel in Gaza City, said that when he built his hotel in Gaza City he was hoping the strip would command a spot on the tourist map.

But two years later Elaiweh says he has virtually no tourists checking into his plush hotel.

He blames the lack of visitors on the stumbling Middle East Peace Process.

SOUNDBITE: (Arabic)
“The main reason that encouraged us to start this hotel and put our cash is because we were hoping the peace process will go on, nothing has happened so far, what we see is more complications and regulations that cut people in the West Bank from people in Gaza and I do not think we can live on that.”
SUPER CAPTION: Basel Elaiweh, Owner of Windmill Hotel in Gaza

But hotels and restaurants are not the only thing that can encourage tourists in Gaza Strip.

In addition to the few historical mosques and churches, an impressive archaeological site has been discovered in the strip.

Archaeologists are currently looking after a vast area of well-preserved mosaic pavements which once graced the floor of a Byzantine church.

This wonderful discovery contains complex patterns and decorations and an array of Greek inscriptions.

The Palestinian Ministry of Tourism is trying to encourage foreign countries to help them excavate more places and to preserve the ones already discovered.

Abdullah Hijazi, Deputy Minister of Tourism believes that the Palestinian Authority has made all efforts to encourage tourism in its areas.

Hijazi says the deadlock in the Peace Process is making it impossible for the Palestinians to encourage visitors to the area.

SOUNDBITE: (Arabic)
“The more we have progress in the peace process, the more we have tourists into Palestine, if there is progress we will have all kinds of tourists in Gaza not only Arabs and Jews.”
SUPER CAPTION: Abdullah Hijazi, Deputy Tourism Minister in the Palestinian Authority

Gaza City’s beach, is lined by hotels, a resort with an Olympic-size pool and restaurants serving food unknown here just a few years ago: pizza and hamburgers, Chinese, Indian and Italian dishes.

But tourists may only feel further tempted to the Palestinian region if they are able to see the Middle East Peace Process move forward.

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