Locating “Palestine’s Summer Residence”: Mandate-era tourism as a site for national identity

By Andrea L. Stanton
Submitted to Session P4087 (History making in Tourism and Leisure in Egypt and Lebanon, 2015 Annual Meeting
LCD Projector without Audio;
The division of the Near East into British and French Mandate territories after World War I introduced new realities for people on the ground, establishing nation-states in formation. This paper uses research on 1930s Mandate-era efforts to promote Lebanon tourism to Palestinians as a case study for understanding how nation-state-ness was taking hold on the ground, and then turns to 1940s initiatives to promote Palestine as the “national” tourism destination for Palestinians. What did it mean for people who had for centuries lived under one imperial government to suddenly become separate national communities in equally separate states: new border crossings, new visa and passport requirements, new currencies, new taxes, new ministries, and so on?

Using newspaper advertisements, articles, and archival documents, this paper examines how Lebanon was marketed to Palestinian vacationers as “Palestine’s summer residence”. It turns to Lebanese newspapers of the same era to compare the advertisements there – some for the very same hotels –, noting the promotion and development of domestic tourism in this same era, while highlighting the differences between advertisements aimed at Lebanese and Palestinian audiences. It then examines efforts by Ramallah hoteliers in particular to promote Palestine as the “national” summer residence for Palestinians, seeing this as a competitive response and a reflection of Palestine’s contested national identity.

The paper will conclude by arguing that regional tourism is a key node for a better understanding the messy process of establishing national identities in states around the region. It suggests that this process takes place on a capillary level – by the self-interested actions of individual business owners – rather than solely or primarily as a top-down, government or elite-led practice. It further argues that this process for smaller countries must also be understood as taking place not in isolation in conjunction and competition with neighboring states: that Lebanese hoteliers and others in the tourism industry were in part defining Lebanon as distinct from Palestine even while promoting the country to Palestinians.