A grant of US$2.4 million from the Japan Social Development Fund (JSDF) will help increase economic opportunities and improve the livelihoods of Palestinians in fragile communities along the Palestinian Heritage Trail across the West Bank. The World Bank project will focus on providing economic opportunities for women and youth in community-based tourism businesses.
The new World Bank project will help maximize the economic impact of community-based tourism as a development tool in marginalized communities, connecting the Palestinian identity, history, people, tradition, and culture and reaching out to women and youth.
“We welcome Japan’s support for community-based tourism. Building on the success of the previous interventions, the Palestinian Heritage Trail will strengthen the connections between communities and the private sector. Not only will visitors experience the beauty of the cultural trail and the amazing diversity of landscapes, but the new grant will also help promote the economic and social self-reliance of vulnerable communities and households,” said Kanthan Shankar, World Bank Country Director for West Bank and Gaza.
The Palestinian territories have faced long-lasting instability, exacerbating macroeconomic volatility, and increasing unemployment for over a quarter of the population. Job losses affected vulnerable groups with higher-than-average unemployment rates, reaching 41 percent for women (compared to 21 percent among men) and 40 percent for youth.
While tourism activities constituted 2.5 percent of the GDP in 2018, it was one of the first and hardest hit sectors by COVID-19. The sector lost more than US$1 billion in revenue since the start of the pandemic. In the West Bank, the pandemic has particularly affected geographic areas with a higher density of marginalized people, some of which are living below the poverty line.
“Programs that target specific geographic areas and focus on marginalized people are critical to achieve rapid growth and inclusive job creation and mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the West Bank. I strongly believe that enhancing the tourism sector will be an important element for the recovery of the Palestinian economy. In this connection, Japan has promoted the “Corridor for Tourism” project including the newly constructed shelter for Hisham’s Palace in Jericho, which will not only contribute to regional cooperation in the tourism sector but also attract many tourists within the region including Palestine,” said Masayuki Magoshi, Ambassador of Japan for Palestinian Affairs.
Tourism focused on nature hikes and walks is resilient and able to rebound quickly in post-shock situations. In the Palestinian case, the number of domestic tourists on the trails increased even amid fragile and violent circumstances and major shocks, offering residents the opportunity to participate in healthy and safe activities.
The project that will be implemented by the Palestinian Heritage Trail will leverage the existing community-based tourism network to support vulnerable communities, including households, micro, and small businesses, and daily-wage workers. It will do this by first reconnecting them to the domestic market and then to international markets, as appropriate.