Palestine hotel room count ‘to double’

Political artist Banksy — whose artworks sell for millions of dollars — opened his “Walled Off” hotel in Bethlehem earlier this year. (Reuters)
Updated 11 November 2017
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Palestine hotel room count ‘to double’

LONDON: Palestine’s hotel room count is set to double by the end of the decade.
Elias Al-Arjah, who is chairman of the Arab Hotel Association and the owner of The Bethlehem Hotel, predicts that the number of hotel rooms in the country will rise from 6,000 to 10,000 by 2020.
Speaking on the sidelines of London’s World Travel Market, Al-Arjah told Arab News: “In Bethlehem in 1994, before the peace process, we had 800 rooms, now we have 4,000 rooms. We are growing faster than our neighbors, such as Tel Aviv and Amman.”
The Arab Hotel Association (AHA) — which represents 120 hotels throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem — is tasked with promoting tourism to the region through events and marketing.
The AHA chairman said: “Most Palestinian tourism is religious, but there is about five percent of tourism which is cultural and historical.” Al-Arjah said that Palestine and Israel are “working together” to promote Jerusalem as a tourist site.
“When the tourists come, they come to see more than East Jerusalem, they want to see all of the holy sites. Business-wise, we are working together with Israel, even if there is very bad political conflict,” Al-Arjah said.
“Our area has been quiet and there has been no problems in the last three or four years — it has been a good situation. Thank God there is no conflict, so there are more tourists,” he said.
According to the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Palestine is the world’s fastest growing tourism destination. The country saw a 57.8 percent increase in international arrivals in the first half of this year, compared to the first half of 2016.
Earlier this year political artist Banksy — whose artworks sell for millions of dollars — opened his “Walled Off” hotel in Bethlehem. The hotel, which the artist described as having “the worst view of any hotel in the world,” exists both as a hotel and a museum space that explains the turbulent history of the region. Rooms start at $60 and go up to $965 for the presidential suite.


Volvo quits Iran as US sanctions pressure mounts

Updated 19 min 52 sec ago
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Volvo quits Iran as US sanctions pressure mounts

  • Volvo cannot get paid in Iran due to US sanctions
  • Plans were for at least 5,000 trucks to be assembled in Iran Saipa Diesel says zero Volvo trucks assembled since May

STOCKHOLM, Sweden: Swedish truck maker AB Volvo has stopped assembling trucks in Iran because US sanctions are preventing it from being paid, a spokesman for the company said on Monday.
The sanctions against Iran, reimposed on Aug. 6 by US President Donald Trump after his decision to pull out of a nuclear deal with Tehran, have forced companies across Europe to reconsider their investments there.
Volvo spokesman Fredrik Ivarsson said the trucks group could no longer get paid for any parts it shipped and had therefore decided not to operate in Iran in another blow to the country’s car industry, which unlike the energy and banking sectors, had managed to sign contracts with top European firms.
“With all these sanctions and everything that the United States put (in place) ... the bank system doesn’t work in Iran. We can’t get paid ... So for now we don’t have any business (in Iran),” Ivarsson told Reuters by telephone.
Before the sanctions were reimposed, Volvo had expressed an ambition for Iran to become its main export hub for the Gulf region and North Africa markets.
The European Union has implemented a law to shield its companies, but the sanctions have deterred banks from doing business with Iranian firms as Washington can cut any that facilitate such transactions off from the US financial system.
Volvo was working with Saipa Diesel, part of Iran’s second-largest automaker SAIPA, which was assembling the Swedish firm’s heavy-duty trucks from kits shipped to Iran.
Ivarsson said Volvo had no active orders in Iran as of Monday.
A commercial department manager at Saipa Diesel confirmed that sanctions had prompted Volvo Trucks to terminate their partnership agreement.
“They have decided that due to the sanction on Iran, from (May) they couldn’t cooperate with us. We had some renovation planned in Iran for a new plant but they refused to work with us,” said the manager, who declined to be identified.
More than 3,500 Volvo trucks had been assembled by Saipa Diesel in the year to May, but none had been assembled in this financial year although the original deal was for at least 5,000 trucks, the manager told Reuters.
Swedish truckmaker Scania, which is owned by Volkswagen , said it had canceled all orders that it could not deliver by mid-August due to sanctions, while French carmaker PSA Group began to suspend its joint venture activities in Iran in June.
Germany’s Daimler has said it is closely monitoring any further developments, while carmaker Volkswagen has rejected a report that suggested it had decided against doing business in Iran.