Gaza tourism prices out of reach for most Palestinians
Prices in the tourism sector in Gaza have become even more expensive than in world famous destinations such as Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt.
Holiday cabins, consisting of a small private house with a pool and garden, cost up to $800 a day, half the price or slightly less for 10 or 12 hours, according to Ibrahim Khaled, the founder of the Naseem app for booking vacation cabins in the Gaza Strip. But despite their price, they have become very popular with families looking for a short vacation, given the pollution of Gaza’s beaches.
The rates of the territory’s few hotels are higher than those of other international hotels, and most middle-class Gazans cannot afford them. The four-star Mashtal Hotel west of Gaza City is offering a one-night stay with breakfast and internet access for $85. This price was considered ridiculously high for Gazans compared to similarly rated hotels outside the Strip.
“We don’t have an independent Palestinian national economy that allows for the development of the tourism industry,” Khaled said. “Tourism companies in the West Bank are posting travel deals to Turkey and Jordan on social media that include travel tickets, accommodation for days and food at prices lower than renting a cottage for a day or so. two in Gaza. Residents of the West Bank enjoy greater freedom of movement than residents of the besieged enclave.
Gaza’s small cabins offer privacy and comfort, Khaled said, but their electricity comes from private generators, which are expensive. Prices for 11 hours range from 300 shekels [$95] at 1,300 shekels [$413]and a full day is double that amount.
The head of the Palestinian Committee for Restaurants, Hotels and Tourist Services, Abdo Ghoneim, said there are 520 tourist facilities in the Gaza Strip, employing around 7,500 workers, supporting more than 35,000 Gazans.
He told Al-Monitor: “All these facilities use private generators to get electricity. Spare parts and equipment are very expensive due to the taxes collected by the PA and the Gaza government, not to mention transport costs.
Supplies pass through Israeli-controlled crossings, he said, and are “double taxed at crossings by both West Bank and Gaza governments. Add to that repair costs and other charges.”
Tourism projects had flourished on the Gaza Corniche since the founding of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 1993. But the rise of Hamas to power and the subsequent Israeli blockade in 2007 severely undermined the area. Ghoneim believes the lack of border crossings and independent outlets has driven up the cost of living in the Gaza Strip.
In a related context, fuel prices in Palestine are among the highest in the Arab world, with the price per liter of gasoline amounting to $1.93. Meanwhile, the Gaza Strip still receives about half of its electricity needs.
Moamen Abu Mustafa runs a cottage project and beachfront rest home in Sheikh Ajlin, west Gaza. He told Al-Monitor: “The high prices in the tourism sector of the Gaza Strip compared to neighboring countries is logical. We live in a closed environment, politically and economically beleaguered, and life has become very expensive. But there are people who still want to go on vacation.
For his part, Munir al-Ashcar, owner of a chalet complex in the northern Gaza Strip, noted that chalets are the most popular local tourist destinations for Gazans in both summer and winter. “We are paying high running costs, given the scarcity of fuel and equipment in the besieged enclave, especially swimming pools and lighting equipment,” he told Al-Monitor.
Gaza is more expensive than countries like Egypt, Jordan and Turkey, he said, “because it is a city on the line of fire and with unstable security conditions. Some equipment costs more than 500% of the original price, Israel controlling the crossing points and not allowing the entry of many goods under the pretext of dual use for military purposes”.
“Despite the high prices, some people still go to tourist facilities because they need to let off steam and forget their daily worries. Also, the pools are cleaner than the sea,” said Mohammad Muhanna, 34, a father of three.
“Sometimes we take short vacations as a couple and other times we go as a family. We all know it’s very expensive compared to neighboring countries. With what we pay here in a day, we can spend few days in Egypt. But we have to work with what is available to us,” Muhanna told Al-Monitor.
Meanwhile, many are unable to afford the luxury of a vacation. Ayman Nasr, 40, who earns 1,200 shekels (about $377) a month working in a food factory, cannot take his children to restaurants or chalets.
He told Al-Monitor: “We all need a short break to forget our daily worries and have a good time in a resort or in a chalet, but I can’t afford it. Basic commodities in Gaza are already expensive. Some families cannot even afford to eat.
Recently, Uday Qudeih started organizing trips from the Gaza Strip to Sharm el-Sheikh. But it also has its costs. It offers trips for $750, including transport costs from Rafah crossing point to Sharm el-Sheikh and return tickets that exceed $200 per person to Cairo.
In contrast, a deal available to Egyptians inside Egypt is much cheaper than Qudeih’s, at $115 for four days in a hotel in Sharm el-Sheikh.