Lourdes is a small market town lying in the foothills of the Pyrenees. It is part of the Hautes-Pyrénées department in the Midi-Pyrénées region in south-western France. Prior to the apparitions of the Heavenly Mother in 1858, the most prominent feature of the town was the fortified castle that rises up from a rocky escarpment at its centre.
In 1858, Lourdes rose to prominence in France and abroad due to the Marian apparitions seen by the peasant girl Bernadette Soubirous, who was later canonized. Shortly thereafter, the city became one of the world's most important sites of pilgrimage and religious tourism. Today Lourdes hosts around six million visitors every year from all corners of the world. This constant stream of pilgrims and tourists transformed quiet Lourdes into the second most important center of tourism in France, second only to Paris, and the third most important site of international Catholic pilgrimage after Rome and the Holy Land. As of 2011, of French cities only Paris had more hotel capacity.
About the Agreement
A statement of intention on a twinning agreement was signed on May 30th 2015 by the Mayor of Bethlehem, Ms. Vera Baboun, and the Mayor of Lourdes, Ms. Josette Bourdeu. The statement identified fraternal links between the two cities in the areas of religious exchanges as well as in cultural, artistic, tourism, economic, sports and youth exchanges.
In February 2016, a delegation from the Lourdes Municipality, headed by Mayor Josette Bourdeu, visited the city of Bethlehem and many of its institutions and touristic venues.
Under the French-Palestinian bilateral support fund for decentralized cooperation, three projects have been proposed by the Municipality of Lourdes, which have been either implemented or planned for implementation in the near future. These projects are the workshop titled “Spiritual France” where employees of Bethlehem municipality participated in in October 2016. This workshop has worked on enriching the tourism sector in Bethlehem and connecting us with tour operators around the world. Not to forget the organization of a training program in the city of Lourdes for hotel management students from Bethlehem University, and the handicraft project, which also have contributed to the foundation of a concrete base for the development and promotion of the tourism services in our city and the city of Lourdes.