Tourism is acknowledged as an important driver of the economic development and employment growth of cities with great impact on local communities and their natural environment. Recognizing this, local authorities have become major supporters of local communities and businesses as they harness the tourism potential of their areas for the benefit of all – citizens, the private sector, and local authorities.
During the last few years, the tourism sector in Ramallah has flourished and witnessed a period of optimism with increased domestic and international tourists visiting the city. Statistics show that Ramallah is the second most popular Palestinian destination for overseas tourists in terms of both number of visitors and nights spent in the city. This remarkable increase in number of visitors is a considerable market opportunity that has created and sustained hundreds of jobs throughout the city. To capture this opportunity, the city has developed a tourism strategy in coordination with the national strategy of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities to boost organized efforts in this important sector through a clear action plan that lists projects and activities that help promote tourism in the city.
To further stimulate tourism in Ramallah, the municipality is working on improving and developing the existing infrastructure in order to advance tourist attractions and services. The municipality contributes significantly to local events by establishing venues such as theaters and event halls, allocating well-trained staff, and providing signage and parking facilities. Organizing main events and festivals and supporting the existing cultural scene in the city is also a major responsibility of the municipality and serves to attract visitors. The municipality systematically follows up with others in the tourism sector to ensure that the best safety and health measures are in place. On the other hand, incentives are given to venues and vendors licensed by the city to encourage them to abide by the laws and regulations. In addition, their products and services are promoted through the special tourist center website as well as through the municipality’s official online platform, www.ramallah.ps/visitramallah.
In 2011, the Ramallah Tourist Information Center was opened, the first of its kind in the governorate and the second on the national level. The center provides many services for tourists and visitors, including private and regular tours, city maps, recommendations, brochures, gifts, etc.
This year, Ramallah Municipality launched the latest advance tourism services project, VRamallah (http://www.ramallah.ps/VRamallah/). This project enables anyone in the world to take a virtual tour of Ramallah. Full narration about the sites and attractions of the city is offered in both Arabic and English.
No one knows the beauty of Ramallah better than its citizens. The municipality is now in the process of joining the International City Greeters Association. This project will enable tourists and visitors to get a free two-hour tour around the city, guided by one of the city’s inhabitants, to learn more about Ramallah’s history, culture, traditions, and attractions.
Hamza Dalia, the head of the Cities and International Organizations Division at Ramallah Municipality, holds a master’s degree in international studies from Birzeit University. He is a former director of Ramallah Tourist Information Center and a former research assistant at Birzeit University.