Tourism Minister Michel Pharaon said Sunday his ministry has long-term programs to boost rural tourism and to attract the Lebanese diaspora.
“The Lebanese Tourism Ministry is operating three programs that should bear fruit in the coming few years,” he said during the launching of a project in the Mount Lebanon town of Hammana entitled “The National Plan to Boost Diaspora Tourism.” The project is the brainchild of former Minister Abdallah Farhat and is being implemented in association with the Spanish Bureau of Cooperation.
“Boosting rural tourism is a strategic plan that was launched by Prime Minister Tammam Salam, but we also devised strategies for diaspora tourism and religious tourism,” the minister added.
Farhat, the mastermind behind the plan, explained that the main goal of the initiative is to build a network to stay connected with the Lebanese diaspora. He added that Lebanon’s mountainous villages such as Hammana constituted major points of attraction for expatriates.
“With the help of the Spanish Bureau of Cooperation each municipality will create an outreach office that would be tasked with keeping contact with residents living abroad,” Farhat said.
As part of the projects, Farhat added, municipalities would also launch websites that would enlist all the attractions and promotions they have on offer and build databases that would include the contact information of all residents living abroad.
“This data is vital to encourage expatriates to visit the country of their fathers and ancestors,” he said.
Pharaon praised the project, saying it fell in the framework of his ministry’s five-year plan to boost rural tourism. He added that individual initiatives and efforts of nonstate actors were key to promoting tourism in Lebanon.
The minister said that stability was a prerequisite for the development of the tourism sector. He added that political tensions also affected growth, the economy and tourism. Pharaon said that while there was a 25 percent increase in touristic activity in 2015 as compared to 2014, the tourism sector has been severely affected between 2011 and 2014 due to instability.
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