The use of Sustainable Development Indicators for promoting mechanisms to develop Tourism at Natural Heritage Sites of Bethlehem and its effect on local communities

Rawan George Awwad
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Al-Quds University
This study was implemented during January 2019 to February 2020, the main goal of this study is to examine adapting the international sustainable indicators to develop the tourism in Natural Heritage sites in Bethlehem and its effect economically on the local communities. This study was implemented in Bethlehem Governate. The study targeted locations are Mar Saba Monastery Area, Salomon’s Pools Area, Town of Battir and Wadi Khreitoun Area. This study targeted the key players and managers in local governmental and non-governmental organizations who work for alternative types of tourism in Bethlehem. The main data collection method was used is the questionnaire. The data was analyzed by SPSS. In the Middle East region and in Palestine, they are recognized as an attractive tourism destination because they contain religious, historical, cultural and natural heritage sites. To specify Bethlehem is considered a site that contains international assets to attract alternative types of tourism such as Natural Heritage tourism. Natural Heritage Tourism means; the total of the elements of biodiversity, including flora and fauna, ecosystems and geological structures. The aim of this tourism is to raise the number of tourists, let them stay longer and to be involved with the local communities. All of this circle will benefit the local communities socially and economically. This study worked to adapt the international sustainable development indicators for promoting mechanisms to develop tourism at Natural Heritage Sites of Bethlehem because tourism is the major industry in Palestine that contributes to raising the percentage of GDP and offer job opportunities to the local communities. The previous studies showed that the Palestinians researchers and authors agreed on the importance of sharing the work of tourism with stakeholders to promote different types of tourism also to ensure the sustainability. On the other hand, the studies showed that Palestine need to work for; developing local legislation and regulations in order to save its heritage places and to work for a master plan of tourism. According to the previous studies, interviews, and researches, there are international indicators to adapt and to ensure sustainability of natural heritage sites. These Indicators are; Economic, environmental, social and governance. The researcher adapted these indicators to the Palestinian situation, and the results showed that the most important indicator to work for is the environmental, the second is the social, the third is the economic and the final indicator to work for is the governance. In Addition, the previous studies were agreed on setting international components to be available in the natural heritage places to be listed as world natural heritage site, these components are; environmental, climate, biodiversity and cultural aspects such as heritage and religious sites. These components were adapted to the targeted sites and the results showed that those places can be considered as natural heritage sites. The results showed that Battir is number one to be considered as a natural heritage site, the second is Mar Saba Monastery Area, the third is Salomon's Pools Area and the final one is Wadi Khreitoun Area. In addition to the international components, the previous studies summarize that there are standard elements to be included in natural heritage sites, these elements are; the location of the site, the availability of public services, to have rest areas or walking paths, the local communities’ involvement and the final is to work for decreasing the effect of the external threats to ensure the development of tourism. Most of the targeted population weighted for the importance to work for decreasing the effect of the local restrictions of the targeted sites such as; the political division of the areas, the settlers sudden visits and the closed management of some areas