Justice Tourism - Sustainable Peace

Justice Tourism - Sustainable Peace

Palestinian Territory
Organization type: 
for profit
Budget: 
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Green Olive Tours provides visitors to Israel & Palestine with the opportunity to go beyond the usual 'Holy Land Tours' Our day-trips and multi-day tours visit refugee camps and villages in addition to seeing the sites. We offer people-to people contact, and critical analysis of the Occupation of Palestinian lands.

About You
Organization:
Green Olive tours
Visit website
Section 1: About You
First Name

Fred

Last Name

Schlomka

Country
Section 2: About Your Organization
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

Yes

Organization Name

Green Olive tours

Organization Phone

+972-54-693-4433

Organization Address

PO Box 5049, 44150 Kfar Saba

Organization Country

, C

How long has this organization been operating?

1‐5 years

Your idea
Country your work focuses on
Innovation
What makes your innovation unique?

Green Olive Tours is the only company offering daily tours to all parts of the Palestinian Territories. Although we offer 'alternative tours', our marketing is aimed at the mainstream tourists in addition to backpackers and activists. The Green Olive tours website is optimized with carefully crafted key phrases, to find people through the search engines who are seeking tours in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. The results are interesting, and our tours attract a broad cross-section of visitors from the 5-star hotels in addition to people from hostels.

We provide our guests with a comprehensive overview of the history and current status of Israel and the Palestinian Territories, educating visitors and providing a cash flow into the devastated Palestinian economy. The tours visit Fair Trade organizations, cooperatives and struggling small businesses that few tourists ever see. Our guests hold discussions with refugees, Bedouin, and villagers who have had land confiscated by the Israeli authorities, or had their homes demolished. The tours combine political and cultural experiences with visits to historical and religious sites, providing a comprehensive overview of the society.

Our multi-day tours embed visitors withing a Palestinian community, staying in people's homes and learning first hand the hardships of Occupation and repression. We also offer the opportunity to volunteer in villages, teaching English, working with farmers, and rebuilding destroyed homes. These experiential trips enable our guests to deepen their understanding of Palestine and Israel, and many return to their home countries with a commitment to work for peace and justice in the region.

One indicator of our success is the recent investigation of our activities by the Israeli Tourism Ministry. This unique enterprise advocates justice and security for Palestinians and as such is deemed to be a threat to the state. However we will continue to meet the growing demand for our tours.

Do you have a patent for this idea?

Impact
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.

2011
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.

2012
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.

How many people will your project serve annually?

1001‐10,000

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

Less than $50

Does your innovation seek to have an impact on public policy?

Yes

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.

Sustainability
What stage is your Social Enterprise in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Does your organization have a board of directors or an advisory board?

Yes

Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with NGOs?

Yes

Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with businesses?

Yes

Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with government?

No

Please tell us more about how partnerships could be critical to the success of your Social Enterprise

Partnerships with non-profit organizations in Palestine and Israel contribute to the success of the business through having access to their personnel during a tour. We visit organizations such as the Yaffa Center in Balata Refugee camp in Nablus to learn about their efforts in channeling the frustration and anger of the youth into cultural and sports activities. We also operate one our jointly with the Alternative Tourism Group in Bethlehem, a non-profit organization that also conducts tours and programs that bring foreign guests deep inside Palestinian society.

We also work with Political organizations such as the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and Combatants for Peace, NGOs that present the issues to our guests in structured settings. The Alternative Information Center in Beit Sahour is a key partner that hosts discussion groups for internationals.

Our for-profit partners include the Gate Cafe at Damascus gate in Jerusalem that hosts our Travel Center for mutual benefit. The Star2000 transport company in Bethlehem provides us with the use of their office and secretarial help in answering phones. In return we use their vans and buses for tours.

Selected hotels that support our mission are active partners in displaying our brochures prominently and promoting our tours to their guests. In return we steer visitors to these hotels.

An important partner is the Fauzi Azar Inn in Nazareth. They also operate a hiking trail in the Galilee that includes staying with villagers en-route. They promote our tours in the Inn, and provide advertising space on their hiking map. In return we provide them with a page on our website and advertising space in our brochure.

these partnerships are all mutually beneficial and help promote our mission and the missions of the respective organizations.

We would like to learn more about how your initiative is financially supported. Please explain your business plan/revenue model

The business was begun with very little capital. The website was designed and is still maintained by the owner, and is the engine that continues to drive the business to success.

The business has been internally self supporting from the beginning. Cash flow has always been immediate since tours are either paid in advance or on the day of the tour. There are no receivables. The business broke even almost immediately, with the owner drawing an income within the first six months - the end of 2007.

Since then a delicate balance has been maintained between the cash flow, income draw, and re-investment for marketing and communications. Overhead has been kept to a minimum though marketing partnerships and low cost internet advertising.

As the business grew, the original single-page flyer has grown into a 12-page brochure. This is currently the largest single overhead item, and has become very successful with immediate results since the single-page flyer was replaced with the brochure in early 2010. Further investment is planned to expand the brochure into a travel guide booklet. By providing the travel guide for free to travelers we anticipate that retention of the booklet will increase since it will contain information that visitors can access during their trip. It will also embed our brand and increase the number of people taking our day-trips.

Advertising in the next edition of the booklet with increase revenue and defray the costs of printing and distribution. All additional revenue from advertising will be plowed back into marketing, increasing the cash flow from the tours, and growing the business.

The enterprise has been sustained and grown through sweat equity and no debt, and will continue in this mode.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

In early 2007 I was a free-lance consultant. One day I was leafing through the morning newspaper and saw a full-page advertisement for a 'Settlement Tour'. The tour was offered by a radical right-with settlement organization. The content in the advert made it obvious that they were seeking political and financial support for the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. This organization was very well funded and organized, as was obvious by their very expensive and well designed advertisement.

It immediately occurred to me that there was a need for the public to have a counterpoint to this blatant propaganda. Within a few days I had designed and placed online a small website promoting an 'alternative tour' of Greater Jerusalem, covering the same geography as the settler's tour, but with a critique from the perspective of human rights and democracy. The tour was an immediate success and the business grew from there.

Tell us about the person—the social innovator—behind this idea.

My mother's family moved to Palestine over 200 years ago. My dad was a German refugee in the 1930s, making his way to Palestine in the hope of building a new life here. It was not to be. In the aftermath of the holocaust the conflict between the Jewish immigrants and the Palestinian Arabs grew. My dad saw the writing on the wall and left with my mother and brother in early 1948. I was born Scotland, and left in at the age of sixteen to travel the world. After a variety of adventures in Europe and North Africa, I arrived in North America chasing a young lady I had met on a Greek island. Alas she decided to return to college and forgot her summer fling with me. So I settled in the USA, working at a variety of entry-level jobs such as washing dishes and scooping ice cream. Eventually a painting contractor took me under his wing and taught me how to paint, and from there I became a painting contractor and then a general contractor. In the meanwhile I became involved with social issues in the USA, and integrated my evolving value framework into my business - training women and minorities in the building trades. I was also involved in housing and food cooperatives, and founded a painters cooperative. During this period I began to visit Israel almost every year and became involved in issues here, also living in Jerusalem for a few years in the 1980s. By the end of the 1990s I was deeply involved politically in the struggle for freedom for Palestinians and social justice inside Israel.I moved to Israel permanently in 2000. I was the Operations Manager for the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, then with the help of an Echoing Green Fellowship founded a new organization, Mosaic Communities. Green Olive Tours was founded in 2007. My son left the country last year rather than be inducted into the Israeli military, my daughter is a wonderful dancer and still in high school, and my lovely wife is an accomplished harpist. We live in a small town near Tel Aviv

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Email from Changemakers

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