Tuesday, December 5, 2023

‘Poorly timed and triggering’: Tripadvisor advertising Gaza holidays on Facebook

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When one thinks of booking a relaxing holiday overseas, a war-torn country is not typically on the list.

But in a sponsored post currently circulating on Facebook, Tripadvisor is inviting users to book a stay at the Al Mathaf Hotel​ in Gaza City for $183 a night.

“It’s time for an escape! Choose from thousands of traveler-trusted (sic) hotels on Tripadvisor,” the caption reads.

The hotel advertised is located in the Gaza Strip – a region currently experiencing an ongoing humanitarian crisis as a result of the Israel–Hamas war.

More than 11,070 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and minors, have been killed since the war began, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, which does not not differentiate between civilian and militant deaths.

The New Zealand government has issued a Do Not Travel warning via SafeTravel for the region due to the “unpredictable security situation, threat of kidnapping and potential for military operations”.

“New Zealanders currently in Gaza are advised to depart as soon as it is safe to do so. The New Zealand government has an extremely limited ability to provide assistance to New Zealand nationals in Gaza,” the travel advisory said.

After clicking on the sponsored ad, users are redirected to the accommodations listing on the Tripadvisor website and a travel notice appears at the top of the page.

“It is currently recommended to avoid all non-essential travel to this area due to armed conflict and serious safety risks,” the notice said.

Although users are able to select check in and out dates, it doesn’t appear to allow a booking to be made.

Facebook users took to the comment section of the sponsored ad to voice their concerns, with one user asking if it was a joke.

“Nothing like a war-torn country to relax in. Throw in a dash of genocide for good measure,” another user said.

Chris McKeen/Stuff

Auckland man Mahmoud Abulaila discovered that numerous Palestinian family members had been killed in an Israeli airstrike on an international TV news bulletin

Palestinians in Aotearoa Co-ordinating Committee chair Ahmed Saadeh​ called the ad “poorly-timed and triggering”.

Since the Hamas attack on Israel, retaliation by Israeli authorities has resulted in telecommunication services in the Gaza Strip being disrupted.

Palestinians in the diaspora are using social media as a way of keeping up to date with what is happening on the ground in Gaza, and using their loved ones’ last active status as a way of determining whether they were still alive, Saadeh said.

He questioned the algorithm and said it would be “horrible” for people who have lost family to come across an ad encouraging them to book a stay in the same location where their loved ones just died.

Tripadvisor was approached for comment but did not respond.

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