The past several months have been a great challenge for the Palestinian tourism industry due to the unprecedented crisis of COVID-19. In order to prepare the Palestine tourism sector for reopening, the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (MoTA) has been carrying out several activities in its efforts to manage the pandemic and its effect on the Palestinian tourism industry.
A key element has been the establishment of a national team of auditors, responsible for inspecting hotels and their facilities to ensure the implementation of COVID-19 specific health protocols and procedures in line with international standards.
The national team of auditors consists of the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (MoTA) and representatives from the Arab Hotel Association (AHA), Holy Land Incoming Tour Operators Association (HLITOA), the Palestine Association of Travel Agents (PSTTA), the Arab Guide Union (AGU) and Network of Palestine Experiential Tourism Associations (NEPTO).
The efforts carried out by MoTA and the national team of auditors were supported by the Private Sector Development Programme (PSDP) of Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, that 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.
The auditing process consists of hotel operators completing the “COVID-READY” module, developed by Hotel Resilient. The module is an online auditing platform that contains in-depth e-learning courses for capacity building and risk management for hotels. Once a hotel operator completes the COVID-READY module and applies the necessary standards and protocols within their hotel and facilities, the national auditing team is then invited to conduct a comprehensive onsite audit.
Mr. Majed Ishaq, the Director-General of Tourism Marketing and Media at the Palestine Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (MoTA), is the head of the auditing team and responsible for preparing and revitalizing the Palestinian tourism sector for reopening. Most recently, he and his team began onsite hotel auditing inspections and visited the Saint Michael Hotel in Bethlehem on Saturday, April 17, 2021.
According to Mr. Ishaq, the Saint Michael Hotel is the first hotel in Palestine to undergo the auditing process by the national team of auditors, it’s also the first hotel in Palestine to be awarded official certification signifying that the hotel is in compliance with COVID-19 international health standards and can reopen for business. Mr. Ishaq also mentioned that the Saint Michael Hotel used the tourism readiness e-learning portal Jahzeen.ps, for capacity development of its staff members in order to prepare for the audit.
The hotel was awarded official certification and an official logo in the presence of Mr. Elias Al-Arja, the President of the Arab Hotel Association (AHA), Mr. Tony Anastas, the Director of Saint Michael Hotel, and the members of the national auditing team.
During the event, the president of the Arab Hotel Association, Mr. Elias Al-Arja, stated that he considered this event a starting point in the framework of moving tourism forward in Palestine and reopening tourism facilities based on a healthy and preventive foundation in accordance with the new tourism protocols. He also expressed the full support of the Arab Hotel Association (AHA) with all of the efforts made by the national auditing team and MoTA in equipping facilities and reviving Palestinian tourism.
The director of the Saint Michael Hotel, Mr. Tony Anastas, stated that despite the closure of his hotel, since the spread of the pandemic, and the difficult economic conditions that the tourism sector has been going through, especially in Bethlehem, he insisted on implementing all COVID-19 prevention protocols within his hotel and training his staff members. He went on to thank the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (MoTA) and the national team of auditors for their efforts and support in helping to attain this achievement.
Learn more about the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities’ most recent developments and activities here.
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About Jahzeen.ps (Jahzeen): Jahzeen.ps is Palestine’s tourism-readiness and resilience e-learning platform developed to fuse COVID prevention standards and protocols into everyday tourism business in Palestine. Its mission is to help enhance tourism sector employee’s skill sets by providing Jahzeen.ps users with learning tools and certification regarding the new standards and protocols necessary to implement a resilient tourism sector recovery. The Jahzeen e-Learning curriculum provides its users with access to information that includes a general introduction to COVID-19 as well as the new standards and protocols necessary to implement a successful recovery.