Bethlehem: Bethlehem, the city where Jesus was born, has received around 1.5 million tourists so far this year, officials said.

Thousands of tourists were still expected to arrive in the West Bank city in the coming days for Christmas celebrations that would continue till Jan 7, 2012, as reported.

Bethlehem governor Abdel Fattah Hamayel said on Saturday that this year witnessed a slight increase of tourists. He said tight security measures have been put in place for the holidays.

There will be many shows presented by foreign groups during the period 'in addition to the joy and happiness the tourists will have amid hopes that the new year will be a year of peace and prosperity for the Palestinians and for the world's people', he said.

A number of high-ranking Palestinian officials will be in Bethlehem for the celebrations, including President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.