The online travel agency Booking.com added warnings to listings on West Bank sites on Friday. The new alert, a small text warning at the top of search results, urges customers looking for rentals to check their government’s travel advisories before booking in the area, ‘which may be considered conflict-affected’ .
It applies to both Israeli settlements and Palestinian localities.
The warning does not appear in individual listings, only in search results for a specific locality, city or town.
A Booking.com spokesperson said the company plans to “roll out banner notifications to more than 30 regions over the next few months to ensure customers have the information they need to make informed decisions. on the destinations they are considering, which may be classified as contested or conflict-affected areas and which may pose greater risks to travellers”.
She added that such a banner has already been introduced in Northern Cyprus, Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and South Ossetia.
The Foreign Office said in a statement on Saturday evening that Booking.com originally intended much harsher wording, potentially marking the area as “occupied” and saying the visits posed “human rights risks”. .
The ministry claimed the hard work it says deterred the company from using such wording.
The travel company announced it would take the step earlier this month, prompting a backlash from the Israeli government, which threatened a “diplomatic war” in response.
Foreign tourism companies like Airbnb, Booking.com and TripAdvisor have long sparked controversy for allowing West Bank settlers to post accommodations for rent, without mentioning that such settlements are considered a violation of international law. Many rental sites, from suburban-style settlements near Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem to remote outposts deep within the occupied territories, indicate their location only as Israel.
About half a million Jewish settlers live in the West Bank, which Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War. Palestinians seek these lands as part of a future independent state.
Human Rights Watch described Friday’s travel warning as a “welcome step” to help prevent customers from unwittingly landing at illegal settlements. But the group urged tourism businesses to go further by scrapping their listings in West Bank settlements.
“The notification by itself does not end Booking’s contribution to serious rights abuses,” said Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch. “The company should stop negotiating rentals in illegal settlements in places like the occupied West Bank.”
But the stop risks an Israeli outcry. Israel and its supporters have accused those who support the boycott of Israel or its settlements of anti-Semitism. Airbnb scrapped plans to remove listings in settlements in 2019 after lawsuits were filed against it in the United States and Israel.