The value and potential of tourism for socio-economic development in Palestine
By the World Tourism Organization, April 2014
— Although Palestine still accounts for a very small share of the Middle East's international tourist market (1% of international tourist arrivals and 2% of international tourism receipts), demand has been growing strongly in recent years. The number of international tourists grew 7-fold since 2000 to reach 545.000 in 2013 while the volume of tourism exports (receipts) increased threefold in the same period to a total of US$ 755 million in 2012.
— According to the Initiative for the Palestinian Economy, the tourism sector employs currently an estimated 15.000 people directly. Its indirect impact when considering that each job in tourism is estimated to create 1.5 jobs in other sectors could mean that a total of 22.500 jobs depend directly or indirectly on tourism in Palestine.
— The growth potential for international tourism to Palestine is high considering its progress in previous years, its unique selling propositions in cultural and religious tourism and its location in one of the fastest growing tourism regions in the world. Furthermore, international tourism to Israel has also been growing in recent years.
— The Middle East will continue to be one of the fastest growing tourism regions in the long-term. According to UNWTO Tourism Towards 2030 forecasts the number of international tourists in the Middle East will reach 149 million by the year 2030 — an average annual growth rate of 4.6% a year between 2010 and 2030 as compared to 3.3% for the world.
— Key challenges to tourism's growth in Palestine include: (a) addressing the negative overall perception of safety and security; (b) improving, diversifying and expanding the tourism products; (c) building awareness of the wealth of tourism attractions and
1.1 Key opportunities
— Location in one of the fastest growing tourism regions in the world.
— Unique selling propositions for religious and cultural tourism.
— Significant number of same day visitors that can be maximized to increase average spend, length of stay and hotel occupancy rates.
— Good conservation of sites and good access to main tourist attractions.
— Security perception: There is a pressing need to improve the perception by potential travellers of tourist destinations in Palestine as safe and welcoming.
— Border formalities and visitors access to destinations (particularly from Arab and Muslim countries) need to be facilitated. UNWTO research clearly shows a direct link between visa facilitation on the one hand, and increase in tourism demand, economic growth and job creation, on the other.
· Creation of associative models that increase competitiveness in market access and promotion (international marketing and negotiation with Tour Operators).
· Credit line for small businesses creation and improvement.
· Development of networks and value chain structures to include other sectors such as agriculture and handicrafts to increase spend and ensure distribution of income.
· Provide means to enhance international promotion, namely making use of new media.
· Training of crisis communication for public and private sector.
The development of tourism in Palestine can harness significant socio-economic impacts within a relative short period of time.
Through their direct contact with host communities, tourists create immense opportunities to foster socio-economic development at local level. These include, not only the provision by individuals and small and medium companies in host communities of direct tourism services (local guides, transport, accommodation establishment or restaurants) but also the creation of important linkages with other
sectors throughout the value chain such as agriculture, construction, manufacturing or handicrafts. Supporting tourism in Palestine is transforming these opportunities into community development and empowerment.
3. UNWTO support to the Office of the Quartet Representative Initiative for the Palestinian Economy
The Initiative for Palestinian Economy (IPE) — Tourism Sector developed by The Office of the Quartet Representative offers a comprehensive road map to advance tourism in Palestine and make the sector one of the most important contributors to its socioeconomic development and job creation.
Palestine is since 1999, an Observer to UNWTO. UNWTO is committed to support technically the Office of the Quarter Representative in the implementation of the Sector Aspiration and Strategy for Tourism, provided financial means are made available. Areas of UNWTO technical assistance can include:
— Product development and diversification
— Investment promotion
— Quality standards
— Skills development and capacity building
— Institutional building and governance, namely the creation of a tourism promotion structure
— Development and implementation of a marketing strategy and plan
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