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’s last imports of Iranian oil could be in October

Updated 19 July 2018
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Japan’s last imports of Iranian oil could be in October

  • US President Donald Trump’s administration has demanded nations cut all their imports of Iranian oil from November
  • Japan’s largest banks had already said they would stop handling all Iran-related transactions to meet the November deadline

TOKYO: Japanese oil refiners will likely stop loading Iranian crude by mid-September with final shipments arriving in the first half of October, the head of the nation’s oil refiners association said on Thursday, as the US pressures countries to halt such imports.
US President Donald Trump’s administration has demanded nations cut all their imports of Iranian oil from November as it reimposes sanctions over Tehran’s nuclear program.
Although it has said that some allies who are particularly reliant on Iranian supplies may be granted waivers that would give them more time to wind down shipments.
“Japanese oil refiners have been making preparations for lifting plans on the assumption that US sanctions are to be applied,” the president of the Petroleum Association of Japan (PAJ), Takashi Tsukioka, said.
“Considering that payment is to be finished by end of October, it is important that the refiners would finish loading (Iranian oil) before mid-September.”
Tsukioka added that the industry is asking the Japanese government to push to maintain current levels of Iranian imports in talks with the United States. But a Japanese government source, who declined to be identified, said winning a waiver was seen as “difficult.”
PAJ had said last month that Japanese refiners would likely stop importing from Iran, but on Thursday gave more details on potential timings.
Many refiners in Japan, the world’s fourth-biggest oil importer, say they are resigned to completely halting imports from one of their historically important suppliers, unlike during a previous round of sanctions when they substantially reduced imports from the Middle Eastern country.
Three industry sources familiar with the matter said shipping companies had told refiners in Japan that they would stop carrying oil cargoes from Iran. The sources declined to be identified as they were not authorized to speak with media.
That would follow similar announcements by the world’s biggest shipping companies including A.P. Moller-Maersk of Denmark.
Unlike Japan, China and some countries in Europe have significantly raised purchases following the lifting of previous sanctions.
“It would be unreasonable for (Japanese refining) industry to be influenced similarly by such countries,” said Tsukioka, who also serves as chairman of Japan’s second-biggest refiner, Idemitsu Kosan.
Japan’s largest banks had already said they would stop handling all Iran-related transactions to meet the November deadline set by Trump, Reuters reported last week.
Japanese refiners are looking to secure alternative supplies from the Middle East and the US among others, industry sources have said.
Japan last year imported 172,216 barrels per day of Iranian crude, down 24.2 percent from a year earlier, with Iranian oil accounting for 5.3 percent of the nation’s total imports.