A few shouts, a few shrugs on Booking.com “Warning” of Israeli settlements

Veterans of Israeli tourism industry tell The Media Line impact of ruling will be minimal, tourism minister swears ‘diplomatic war’ and Palestinian hotelier says he wants the world to follow his lead

International tourist accommodation giant Booking.com plans to introduce a disclaimer on accommodations located in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, saying it is company policy to add such a disclaimer to all areas considered a “conflict zone”.

The decision announced this week sparked outrage among Israeli politicians, while industry experts in the country were less pessimistic about its impact.

The Booking.com website allows travelers to book their own accommodation independently, choosing from more than 28 million listings in 228 countries and territories around the world.

Local media reported that starting Thursday, the website will display a warning on all accommodation in West Bank settlements, stating that “visiting the area may come with an increased risk to security and human rights or other risks to the local community and visitors”.

“Some conflict-affected areas may present a greater risk to travelers, so we provide our customers with information to help them make decisions and encourage them to check their government’s official travel guidelines as part of the process. decision-making,” the company told Israel. the Ynet media, explaining the reasons for this decision.

The company said the warning would also appear for “other conflict zones” around the world. According to reports, the website also plans to add the alert to accommodations in East Jerusalem, which was annexed by Israel after it captured Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War, a move not recognized by the International community.

Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov told the Ynet news site that he was determined to fight the decision. He said the Israeli government would wage a “diplomatic war” to reverse what he called a “political” decision.

I think Booking.com is wrong to jump on the political bandwagon. They should focus on promoting business, not boycotting business for any political agenda.

Booking.com claims to facilitate more than 1,550,000 overnight stays each day. According to respected analytics website SimilarWeb, the travel website has averaged 675 million monthly visits over the past three months.

There are some 140 Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including dozens of tourist sites. Some human rights groups have lobbied for years for websites such as Booking.com to remove their listings.

Airbnb, which allows people to rent their own homes to guests, introduced a ban on settlement listings in 2018 but reversed it about six months later after Israeli lawyers filed a class action lawsuit.

Israeli tourist guide David Ha’ivri, who lives in the West Bank, doubts the move will significantly harm settlement resorts.

“I’m skeptical of how many such businesses in Judea and Samaria actually rely on Booking.com for their business,” Ha’ivri told The Media Line, referring to the West Bank by its biblical name.

“It’s really a political thing what they’re doing,” he said, pointing out that the controversy surrounding the decision has also put the spotlight on the resorts themselves.

“Just by doing so…they highlight the fact that there is a tourism and tourist services industry in Judea and Samaria,” Ha’ivri said.

“That being said, I think Booking.com is wrong to jump on the political bandwagon. They should be focused on promoting business and not boycotting business for any political agenda,” he said.

Elias Al Arja, a Palestinian hotelier from Bethlehem, told The Media Line that he supports Booking.com’s decision.

“Hotels in Palestine are good and safe under our government. In areas where the Israelis have built hotels and are trying to market them as Judea and Samaria, it’s something else,” he said.

“It’s not Palestinian, it’s not as safe as Palestinian areas,” Al Arja added.

Booking.com has the “right” to label settlement hotels, he said.

“I’m looking for the world to do something like this, not just Booking,” the hotelier told The Media Line.

“Israelis get grants to build in the region like Moscow did in the Donbass, helping people build a project and sell it as Russian and that’s what the Israelis are doing here,” he said. he says, comparing Israel to Russia and the Palestinians to Ukraine. . “They are destroying our [industry] and build alternatives in the areas they occupied.

Hotels in Palestine are good and safe under our government. In areas where the Israelis have built hotels and are trying to market them as Judea and Samaria, it’s something else.

Veteran Israeli tourism industry expert Ron Sinai is also unfazed. The move has nothing to do with anti-Israel sentiment, it’s purely Booking.com making its policies consistent, he told The Media Line.

“It’s not made by anti-Israel or pro-Palestine [sentiment]but a desire to present the information to their customers,” he said.

“Their approach is that someone who is unfamiliar with the issue and is looking for a hotel in the area will receive this warning before making their reservation,” Sinai said.

There are very few resorts that will be affected by the ruling, and those that are are not actually dependent on Booking.com for their business, he said.

“Almost the only places that could be affected by this are two kibbutzim, Almog and Kalia, which are across the Green Line border” between Israel and the West Bank, Sinai said.

According to Sinai, these two places north of the Dead Sea are not associated with the West Bank – unlike places like Maale Adumim, Modiin Illit or Kiryat Arba, whose visitors know where they are and don’t care.

He reiterated his belief that the travel site’s pitch is not motivated by any anti-Israel sentiment and posited that the anger expressed by Israeli politicians has more to do with the upcoming Knesset elections.

“It’s not just us, [Booking.com] are doing this around the world,” he told The Media Line.

“I’m not a victim here,” he said. “You decided it was dangerous?” Alright, it’s your prerogative, you’re the one selling it.

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