Bethlehem, Palestine – On March 23rd, 2016, HCEF and the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) signed a partnership agreement to bolster the tourism sector in Palestine. Statistics indicate that roughly 25,000 Palestinians depend on the tourist economy for their livelihoods—a sector that has stagnated over the last few decades due to a lack of international support in the region. This downturn has left many families in dire straits, feeling hopeless in a struggling economy. UNWTO is the leading public international organization in the field of tourism, with a membership encompassing 163 countries and territories and more than 480 Affiliate Members representing the private sector, educational institutions, tourism associations and local tourism authorities. The recent agreement between HCEF and UNWTO serves as a beacon of hope during difficult times.
Recognizing the tourism sector as a major driver of the Palestinian economy, as well as a key employer of the Palestinian people, HCEF and UNWTO have committed to working together to promote sustainable cultural and religious tourism in Palestine. The two agencies, along with the support of Palestine’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and the Holy Land Incoming Tour Operators Association (HLITOA), will cooperate to carry out a variety of initiatives that will promote tourism to Palestine by organizing international events, promoting investment to foster job creation, sharing networks, and by developing youth and volunteer programming. HCEF’s 18th International Conference in Washington, DC on October 14th-15th will serve as a platform to launch the new initiatives.
Regarding the partnership, HCEF President/CEO, Rateb Rabie, commented, “This is a good opportunity to utilize tourism for peace and to work together for the common good of all people in the region. We expect our partnership will make real and meaningful change for both Palestinians and for the many pilgrims who desire to visit the Holy Land.”