Tell us about the social impact of your innovation. Please include both numbers and stories as evidence of this impact
Main areas of social impact.
1. Our injection of funds into the Palestinian economy provides employment and enables families to live better lives.
2. Social interaction between visitors and Palestinians is a two-way street. Our guests learn about life under Occupation and Palestinian culture. Palestinians love to meet visitors, tell their stories, and are better able to withstand the hardships knowing that people abroad are interested in their plight.
In 2009, 1,876 visitors participated in 148 day-tours and 18 people attended multi-day tours. Three refugee camps were visited on 156 occasions.
$122,000 entered the Palestinian economy at the local level with a multiplier effect possibly exceeding half a million dollars. Many of our visitors patronized cooperatives, olive wood and soap factories, and other Fair Trade transactions. It is impossible to know the exact amount of their purchases.
Local guides, transport providers and eleven Palestinian home-stay providers benefited from the tours. Donations were also made to non-profit organizations visited by our guests.
We receive many emails from our guests after they return to their home countries. Many of them were moved by their experiences and join Peace & Justice groups at home, become activists, advocating for human rights in Palestine and Israel.
It's always satisfying to see a light go off when a client gains a new insight. Just yesterday I gave a private client a settlement tour. Betty is a Phd. candidate at a canadian college and is in teh country conducting research on the impact of the Occupation on Chldren. We visited one of the 'radical settlements' and had an interesting conversation with the son of one of the founders. Then a visit with a mother of three children in the settlement of Alfe Menashe. Finally the visit top the Central West bak settlement of Ariel (pop. 25,000), and a stroll through the college campus there. It was here that she was amazed. Thousands of students were lounging on lawns, sitting with their lattes, and chatting in groups. "Just like a California college", said Betty. Having left the squalor of Balata refugee camp in the morning, just 25 minutes away, she felt transported to another world. Not at all what she expected a settlement to be like.
Problem: Describe the primary problem(s) that your innovation is addressing
Our tours expose and critique the ongoing Israeli Occupation of Palestinian Lands, the denial of human rights, and the non-compliance with international law and human rights conventions.
Israel currently retains absolute control of almost 60% of the West Bank, and effective control of the remaining 40% which is under nominal governance of the Palestinian Authority. There are over 400 checkpoints throughout the West Bank, over 150 tower fortresses, 0ver 700 kilometers of 8-meter high walls - the 'Separation barrier', additional walled ghettos for Palestinians and a growing network of 'Arab only' and 'Israeli only' roads. Jerusalem is surrounded by the Separation Barrier on three sides, effective closing the city to Palestinians who need a permit to enter. Few permits are issued.
Over half a million Israeli settlers live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, effectively foreclosing the possibility of a viable and sovereign Palestinian state.
The Palestinian economy has been devastated over the past fifteen years. The former Palestinian labor force in Israel has been replaced with 350,000 foreign workers from Africa and Asia. The checkpoints and closed roads stifle transportation and normal commercial activity. Imports and exports are entirely controlled by Israel, and Palestinian areas have become a captive economy for dumping Israeli products. Even the few Palestinians who are allowed to work in Israel and the settlements are not covered by Israeli labor law and receive no social security or health benefits.
There are at least six categories of citizen and residents in Israel and the West Bank, all with different rights and privileges embodied in law and regulation. Even when they live in adjacent communities, Israelis in the West Bank are covered by Israeli civil and criminal law, but Palestinian Arabs are under military law.
Our guests learn about all these issues and more.
Actions: Describe the steps that you are taking to make your innovation a success. Include a description of the business model. What might prevent that success?
The business has grown steadily over the past three years, beginning with a single tour in Jerusalem and adding tours at a steady rate. Like many bootstrap businesses, we have operated from home and made good use of the latest technologies. The heart and soul of the enterprise is the website, constantly worked on, optimized, and upgraded. About 50% of our guests make first contact through the internet. We also market via Google AdWords, FaceBook and other social networks.We have a travel center embedded in a Cafe just inside Jerusalem's Damascus Gate. Our tours begin from the travel center which also attracts the general public at this busy location.Our brochure is distributed to over 80 hotels and hostels. We are currently expanding the distribution network and have partnered with hotels and other tour operators to increase the flow of visitors on our tours. Our recent 12-page brochure (10,000 copies) includes some advertising from a few of our partners. This will be increased in our next edition (25 pages) due in September. The new brochure will also be a pocket travel guide to the West Bank, containing basic travel information for independent travelers, and a directory of all the hotels, restaurants and other locations that have agreed to place our brochures. We find that by having a directory provides an incentive for other businesses and organizations to accept our brochure. The new brochure will also carry additional advertising from both local businesses and international sponsors. Many of our past guests are business owners and a survey indicated that many of them will be willing to run adverts in our brochure. We also offer internet exposure to our advertisers through listings on our website.Our growth and success may be challenged through Israeli Government intervention. Since our discourse is contrary to the government narrative about the situation here, we are already being investigated by the Tourism Ministry. It is unclear as yet whether the government will take any legal or regulatory action to curtail our activities. However we are determined to contest any action that might be taken.The other primary concern is the threat of war. There is a possibility in the next year or two that another Palestinian Intifada might erupt, or a war with Hezbollah in Lebanon or Iran, or both. War tends to put a damper on tourism and would definitely shrink our business for the duration of hostilities and a period thereafter. However the experience of the 2007 Lebanon war and the 2009 Gaza action, has shown that normal tourist traffic resumes fairly quickly, reaching normal levels within six months after the war ends.We are optimistic that our present growth level will continue, with possible interruptions by the government or war.
Results: Describe the expected results of these actions over the next three years. Please address each year separately, if possible
Our general growth goals are 50% increase in visitors each year for the next 3 years. This is based on past growth, and although our marketing is now more effective we retain projections what we believe to be conservative expectations. It is possible however that our visitors may double over the next year then flatten slightly
2010 is already in a growth mode. The results of our new brochure are already evident with phone calls almost doubling. We just concluded the busiest week ever, and look forward to a busy summer. Advertising and sponsorship in our new travel guide due in September 2010 will increase our cash flow also, and enable us to plow more funds into additional advertising, reaching out into niche demographics through ever precise internet marketing methods.
We expect to consolidate our physical locations during 2011, and either hire a full time Operation Manager or take in a working partner. The current two locations, in Jerusalem and Bethlehem use traded space from partner businesses. We may have a full-time staffer at each location by the end of 2011. Tours to the Sinai and Jordan will be offered this year, following our mission of exploring the culture and politics of the country. Our brochure will have grown into a 40-50 page booklet full of valuable information for the independent traveler in addition to complete listings of all our tours.
This will be the year to purchase 12-seater passenger van or small bus. Currently the company owns a six-passenger van for small tours and rents vehicles for larger tours. We expect to be servicing one or two group-tours per month, in addition to our day-tours for independent travelers. A full-time staff of 3 or 4 should be employed by the end of the year, including a website manager/internet marketer. During this year we will also be planning the establishment of the 'Green Olive Guest House' in Jaffa, a facility that will serve as our headquarters, complete with a hostel/guest house, cafe, and travel library.
If your innovation seeks to impact public policy, how?
Public policy is impacted from several angles. the existence of the business sends a strong message to our government that there are Israelis who are very unhappy with the political situation. Government officials are already taking note of this as mentioned earlier in this presentation.
Many of our visitors return to their home countries and become activists and advocates for Palestinian freedom. their activities include joining peace and Justice groups, lobbying their own governments in order to influence foreign policy, writing articles and letters to the editor in newspapers.
Visitor support for Palestinians helps sustain their struggle on the ground though the emotional and tangible support they receive from our guests.