Haaretz, June 27, 2010

Tourism ministry pledges money for West Bank settlement hotels. Government to invest NIS 300,000 in 200-acre hotel complex in the Gush Etzion.


By Irit Rosenblum

The Tourism Ministry is expanding its commitment to tourist sites in the West Bank: It will invest another NIS 300,000 in a new 800-dunam (200-acre ) hotel complex in the Etzion Bloc, TheMarker has learned.

“We need to work quickly to advance hotels in the Gush Etzion area, and the Tourism Ministry will provide assistance by allocating the appropriate resources to quickly advance planning for the new hotel complex,” Tourism Ministry Director General Noaz Bar Nir said during a tour of the area on Wednesday.

Gush Etzion, which is near Jerusalem, is seeing increasing demand from tourists, said local council head Shaul Goldstein. Currently, tourists visiting the area have to stay at Jerusalem hotels, he said.

Initially, a 400-room, five-star hotel will be built in the complex. More hotels are scheduled to be built later. The ministry has offered to provide NIS 300,000 of the estimated NIS 500,000 cost of implementing the initial plan.

The local council reported that 450,000 visitors went to tourist sites in the area in 2009. In the past few years the area has drawn growing numbers of foreign tourists and nonreligious tourists. Currently, the area has only one motel – a 100-bed establishment in Efrat – plus a 250-bed hostel in Kfar Etzion. It also has camping sites.

Major tourist attractions in the area include Herodium, the palace-fortress built by King Herod, the Herodian-era Biar Aqueduct, the visitors’ center in Kfar Etzion and a boutique winery.

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