This blog is part of a series of articles highlighting tourism to illegal settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Occupied Syrian Golan. For more detailed information about tourism in the Jordan Valley, see our article Occupation Tourism: Hiding the Ugly Truth about the settlement of Vered Yeriho, located only a short drive from Almog.
TripAdvisor is a travel website featuring reviews of hotels and restaurants around the world. In February 2013, Corporate Watch visited a guesthouse in Almog, a settlement situated on occupied Palestinian territory and found Trip Advisor stickers displayed. A quick search on TripAdvisor revealed that the site lists Almog Holiday Village as being situated within Israel.
One TripAdvisor user commented “this kibbutz is in the West Bank. And not just barely, it’s about as far into the West Bank as you can get without being in Jordan. Saying this kibbutz is in ‘Israel’ is relatively misleading since the only country who thinks this is Israel, is Israel. Even the US recognizes this land as the West Bank and disputed land. Personally this made me feel somewhat uncomfortable, because this is a settlement.”
Agriculture in Almog
Almog is a settlement located in the occupied Jordan Valley, to the north of the Dead Sea. It was established by soldiers enlisted in the Israeli military’s Nahal Brigade in 1977 and became a kibbutz in 1979. Almog, a small mainly agricultural settlement, has a population of 160 people. According to the Kibbutz Almog Tourism Centre website, the settlement earns its living from agriculture. Almog has date orchards, aubergines and grapes and raises turkeys and dairy cows. Settlement farmers in Almog, who trade internationally through agricultural export companies including Hishtil, benefit from cheap Palestinian labour. A group of Palestinian workers told Corporate Watch in February 2013 that they worked in a date orchard owned by Almog, but situated next to the settlement of Kalia. Palestinian workers in the Jordan Valley are, according to interviews carried out by Corporate Watch, routinely paid below the minimum wage.
Tourism ‘amidst locked gates and armed guards’
Almog is doing its best to boost its economy by encouraging tourists wanting to visit the Dead Sea to stay in the settlement’s Holiday Village. Described as a ‘green oasis’ in the desert landscape, the holiday village has 79 rooms, some of which have fitted designer bath tubs for guests, and there is also a spacious swimming pool open throughout the spring, summer and autumn months. Whilst settlers and their customers enjoy a swim in the heat, most of the Palestinian residents of the occupied Jordan Valley do not even have access to enough water for even basic survival, because most villages situated within the West Bank’s Area C are denied access to running water by the Israeli authorities. It has been estimated that the 10,000 settlers in the Jordan Valley receive almost 33% of the amount of water which is available to all of the 2.6 million Palestinian residents of the West Bank.
The kibbutz advertises itself as a partner of Ahava, the infamous settlement company located on the shores of the Dead Sea in Mitzpe Shalem, and promotes tourist visits to their factory. Ahava has been one of the prime targets for the BDS movement for many years.
Almog, which describes itself as a Zionist settlement ‘in the heart of the arid and salty desert’ runs an Agricultural Tour of the Dead Sea, which includes visits to the kibbutz’s date fields and dairy herds. There are also various other settlement leisure activities promoted on Almog’s web-site, most of which involve tourist access to occupied areas which Palestinians are prevented from accessing.
Whilst each aspect of Almog’s tourism operation might not sound like much on its own, it is essential that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement does not let settlement tourism become normalised. One way in which settlement accommodation like this becomes accepted is through popular websites such as TripAdvisor, whose logo was proudly displayed at the Almog Holiday Village reception. On the site, the location is described as being in Israel rather than in the occupied West Bank. Although some of the reviews might work in the BDS movement’s favour (one reviewer writes about the “locked gates and armed guards” whilst one admits to feeling “uncomfortable” after finding out that Almog is a settlement despite being advertised as in Israel), we need to challenge the inclusion of hotels in settlements on websites like TripAdvisor and at the very least persuade travel companies to acknowledge their location as being on occupied territory.
Companies advertising holidays in Almog:
www.tripadvisor.co.uk The company has very limited contact information on its website, at least unless you are a member, but the general company phone number where you can ask questions about listings is 020 3320 3253
www.venere.com This Italian partner of Expedia Inc advertises accommodation in Almog as well as in other settlements. Interestingly, Expedia used to advertise Almog on its site, misleadingly listed under ‘State of Palestine’, but they no longer appear to do so. Contact Venere here.
When questioned about its listing for Almog James Kay of TripAdvisor said:
“TripAdvisor was built on three key principles: to give travellers a voice and place to share their experiences, to promote transparency in the travel industry, and to create a level playing field for travel businesses to reach travellers, regardless of size. These principles continue to be the lifeblood of our company.
To this end, we aim to provide travellers with an accurate and useful picture of all hotels,, inns and speciality lodgings that are currently open for business. The fact that such a property may be listed on TripAdvisor does not represent our endorsement of that establishment. We provide the listing as a platform for guests to share with other travellers their genuine experience of staying there. As such, we do not remove listings of properties that remain active and open for business.”
However, in our view, TripAdvisor’s description of the Almog Holiday Village as being situated within Israel is misleading to TripAdvisor’s readers. Listing guest houses in illegal settlements on sites like these helps publicise them as tourist attractions and helps them, and the settlements themselves, to remain financially viable.
Venere.com and Combinedhotels.co.uk were unavailable for contact
Almog Holiday Village is also featured on various other comparison sites.