The capacity for the Palestinian tourism sector’s development and growth has always had great potential. Prior to COVID-19, Palestine was one of the fastest-growing tourist destinations in the world. It’s a unique destination that, despite a complex political environment, appeals to a diverse range of tourists from all over the world; and has proven to be resilient with the ability to recover quickly.
In light of the recent global pandemic, the Palestinian tourism industry has especially been hit hard with mandatory closures imposed upon hotels, tour operator offices, touristic sites, facilities, and restaurants; directly affecting over 30,000 workers within the industry.
The tourism sector has always been vital to the Palestinian economy and has attracted substantial investment across the tourism value chain thanks, in large part, to the efforts and accomplishments of the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (MoTA). The Ministry has accomplished a great deal in the last few years in terms of developing the tourism sector such as getting the public and private sectors to work together in cooperation with national and international organizations, associations, and policymakers.
In order to rebuild and reopen the Palestinian tourism industry post-COVID-19, the Ministry implemented several initiatives with the aim to cope with the recent pandemic; provide solutions to support the tourism industry; and restore confidence in the Palestinian tourism industry in the eyes of international tour operators, governments, and ministries of foreign affairs.
The Ministry established the Palestine Tourism Recovery Taskforce (PTRT), comprised of representatives from the public and private sectors, who are responsible for implementing a systematic response plan to revitalize and restore confidence in the Palestinian tourism sector post-COVID-19. The task force includes representatives from the Arab Hotel Association (AHA), Holy Land Incoming Tour Operators Association (HLITOA), Palestinian Society of Tourist and Travel Agents (P.S.T.T.A), The Guide Union, and Network for Palestine Experiential Tourism Associations (NEPTO).
Working with the support of the Private Sector Development Programme (PSPD) of Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and a team of specialists and consultants commissioned by GIZ, the task force developed the “COVID-19 Tourism Operation Manual for Palestine”. The manual is a COVID-19 prevention guidebook in compliance with international standards and protocols that outlines health and hygiene standards the tourism sector must uphold to minimize the risk of COVID-19 infections in order to reopen for business. The guidebook is built upon the standards put in place by Palestinian Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization, and the World Tourism Organization.
Within the same scope, the task force and GIZ also launched Jahzeen.ps, a tourism-readiness and resilience e-learning digital platform based on the operational manual. It’s an open platform and was created to enhance the capacities, skill sets, and proficiencies of individuals within the Palestinian tourism sector. It also aims to educate the industry and prepare them for national implementation audits. Jahzeen offers a wide range of training courses related to the different subsectors within the Palestinian tourism industry; and has proven to be a success after reaching a high volume of registered users only within a few weeks of its launch.
Beyond these efforts, the Ministry organized a national team of auditors to conduct comprehensive onsite audits of hotels. The intention of which, is to thoroughly inspect the hotels and their facilities to ensure the implementation of COVID-19 specific standard operating procedures. While supporting the auditing team, GIZ commissioned the expertise of Hotel Resilient, an acclaimed German institute that is the world’s only scientific benchmarking and certification body for disaster risk management specifically focused on hotels and resorts.
Through the auditing process, hotel operators are required to use an online auditing and e-learning platform, developed by Hotel Resilient, and complete the COVID-READY module. The module is an in-depth e-learning courses for capacity building and risk management for hotels. After the audit is complete and the hotel meets all the requirements of COVID-READY standards, they are then rewarded with official certification signifying that they are in line with international COVID-19 mandatory standards and protocols and can officially reopen and resume operations.
While the pandemic has been an important challenge for the Palestinian tourism sector, it’s only through innovation, adaptability, and cooperation that can help the sector recover. Palestine is the only country within the region to carry out a world-class standard of health and safety in its proactive measures to create a safe environment for visitors, tourists, and employees post-COVID-19; and be recognized as a safe travel destination ready to soon reopen and welcome back tourists.
Learn more about the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities most recent developments and initiatives here.
Contributing members are responsible for the accuracy of content contributed to the Member News section of AdventureTravelNews.