96% of the shops in Bethlehem are currently closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic - 23 March 2020 (Credits: Nour Qudeimat/ PNN)

Ways for Bethlehemites to save the economy of their city

By Nour Alsqa- PNN/ Bethlehem/

High hopes for 2020 are on the verge of collapse due to the pandemic. However, Palestinians could still save the day.

In 2019, Palestinian were very optimistic for the new strategies adopted by Prime Minister Dr. Mohammad Shtayyeh to improve the economic situation. The strategy sought to create new era through dividing Palestinian cities into clusters with various specialization, including clusters of Agriculture, Tourism, Industry, Capital, Public Administration and Finance and finally Marine.

Let us speak deeply about Bethlehem City; It has recorded the highest unemployment rate in the West Bank with about 23%, leading policy makers to exert more efforts, starting with the Tourism Cluster. In the beginning of 2020, Premier Shtayyeh  opened a hotel and laid the foundation stone for four other hotels in the cities of Bethlehem and Beit Sahour, as part of the development plan with clusters.

Bethlehemites became even more optimistic and more young people got employed, while the expectations of tourism for 2020 were rocketing, especially for the upcoming Christmas season, which encouraged many individuals to start new business or increase their production of goods and services. However, a crisis hits the scenario and creates a tragic reality.

In less than a month, thousands of dollars were recorded as losses, greater unemployment, no revenues to cover the previous expenses, tens of hotels are closed, many olive wood products left in the factories and the money cycle for tourism shops and factories is completely stopped.

Bethlehem is drowning  in an ocean of recession. This case should push us towards solutions to fight the pandemic with brains. Many people will wonder whether or not this can be done, and the answer is yes, your ideas can help us skip this crisis in many ways.

The solutions include supporting Palestinian industries if Palestinian stop buying Israeli products and focus on buying the Palestinian products. Palestinians can also use online trade for souvenir sales and keeping their factories alive. Hotel employees can find alternative jobs in different sectors rising at the moment, such as medical supply factories. Companies can start creating online platforms, institutions can create online courses, providing an opportunity for digital evolution.

In this case, big companies who still make profits can increase their employees, destination hotels will have and market other products to cover their expenses and survive.

Despite the current crisis, we hope Bethlehem goes backs to its cycle of economic improvements and achieves the aims of the tourism cluster. Bethlehem isn’t a developed city but it has brilliant skills and entrepreneurs who are willing to give all their efforts and open doors for a bright future.