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.


Japan, South Korea plan to resume Iran oil imports from January

Updated 19 November 2018
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Japan, South Korea plan to resume Iran oil imports from January

  • Japan and South Korea were among the countries issued with a waiver from the US, after it reinstated sanctions on Iran
  • Both countries temporarily halted Iranian oil loading around mid-September

TOKYO/SEOUL: Refiners in Japan and South Korea are looking to resume Iranian oil imports from January after receiving waivers from US sanctions on Tehran, sources familiar with the matter said.
The unexpected resurgence in Iranian oil imports due to the waivers has helped push spot prices for Middle East crude and condensate to their lowest in more than a year.
The United States in November granted exemptions to eight countries, allowing them to import some Iranian crude for another 180 days. Japan and South Korea were among the top five buyers of Iranian crude and condensate before they stopped imports in the third quarter ahead of the sanctions.
South Korean refiners are set to hold their Iranian oil imports at zero until the end of the year, and they may resume shipments in late January or early February as buyers are in talks with Iran to sign new contracts, industry sources said.
“They are seeking to get the best price and are in talks with Iran,” said a source with direct knowledge of the matter.
Most tankers are booked until December, so South Korea may load Iran oil shipments in January at the earliest, he said.
It takes about 25 days for oil shipments from Iran to arrive at South Korea. Iran also has the option of selling oil from storage in Dalian, China, which would shorten delivery time.
Last week, a South Korean delegation was in Iran to negotiate for 2019 supplies of mainly South Pars condensate.
“There are some issues to be cleared like payment. We are not able to buy it at the moment and are not rushing,” a second source said. “Iran is also trying not to sell it cheaper. We ... won’t import Iran oil until perhaps after January.”
The sources declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.
Japan
Fuji Oil Co, one of Japan’s top Iranian oil buyers, plans to resume Iran crude liftings from January as well, and is also looking to buy condensate.
Fuji Oil was considering whether to sign a new contract for Iranian crude, its top executive said last week, adding that oil from Iran is competitively priced against rival grades.
Japan’s largest refiner, JXTG Holdings, said earlier this month it may resume Iranian oil loadings from December.
But while Japanese buyers are likely to buy Iranian oil through February loadings, they may not take the crude from March onwards, as they wait for the government to extend sovereign ship insurance into the new financial year that starts on April 1, industry sources familiar with the matter said.
Started in 2012 to counter sanctions on Iranian oil, Japan’s sovereign insurance scheme covers any shortfalls from Protection & Indemnity (P&I) insurance for ships carrying crude from Iran to Japan.
The Japanese government has declined to give information on the volumes of Iranian imports that would be allowed under the 180-day exemption period.
Some sources said the sanctions waiver may allow Japan to buy around 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Iranian oil. That marks a significant reduction for buyers that took about 165,000 bpd of Iranian oil in January-September.
Japan joined South Korea in temporarily halting Iranian oil loading around mid-September.