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Which Tourism Investment? Practical steps to invest purposefully in Lebanon

Updated: Sep 9, 2021

This is a response to a Facebook post that was also circulated through a WhatsApp group

The post is inviting people to invest in tourism in a place like paradise in Lebanon in the Middle East. The post was written by a representative of one major Lebanese Diaspora group, WLCU World Lebanese Cultural University. The people invited are the *Lebanese Diaspora-immigrants from Lebanon, whose remittances are considered an essential contributor to the local economy.

Putting a forgotten paradise-like region on the development investment or even on the touristic map may be dangerous to local and cultural heritage. It is better to protect the place by laws that protect the region and its resources first. Considering the place as a nature conservation area to protect its fauna and flora and empower communities to take pride in their heritage and conserve their traditional ways of living. The land use laws must be issued with the general consensus that would definitely involve local authorities like municipalities, and chiefs, who will enforce the law. The goal is to limit the built environment development. That does not mean to limit tourism or to lessen the value of the land. Some types of travel and tourism are developing within norms that respect local natural and cultural heritage and consider it an asset to preserve, such as ecotourism. Otherwise, if regions are open for mass tourism development, construction projects will grow like mushrooms in a way that is exhaustive to the local people and to the nature; like what is happening in South America’s beach tourism destinations, such as west North Costa Rica, Cancoon in Mexico or Hawaii; or like what happened to the beautiful coastal areas of Lebanon- say Jounieh and Jbeil areas. One recent example on uncontrolled development was on the island of Borocay in the Philippines, regulations and the role of businesses in greening or ruining a place. It is an example of uncontrolled development that led to destruction because it harms its own environment which makes the businesses lose their own value and the reason they chose to be in this place.

Fresh water, landscape, sustainable agriculture, air quality, serenity, all can get exploited to a point of no return. Sometimes tourism developed to highlight or use the beauty of a region, as a nature refuge, would bring traffic and leave waste that destroy this beauty. Inviting building of resorts and adjacent services without proper planning and without prioritizing conservation usually leads to exhaustion of resources, mainly water, clean air, and land.

In Lebanon, obvious forms of resources exhaustion are sporadic construction, loss of trees, noise and air pollution, scenery damage, toxic solid waste and unwary sewage.

The solution is to limit the invitation to sustainable and ecotourism development. Building and infrastructure development and investment made within ecotourism standards, promotes protection of natural resources, invest in local people and respects cultural traditions and values. Ecotourism is usually connected to protected areas, where ecotourists seek out a destination for its fauna and flora and nature beauty. For the laws and permits for development, it is imperative to prioritize protection of nature and respect of local culture. It is very important to start by setting all-encompassing planning policies, development laws, and regulations first, paralleled by ensuring adequate enforcement. Examples and references to policies fostering sustainable development adjacent to nature reserves in Lebanon are: The Chouf Biosphere Reserve Management Plan, and permits encouraging small sustainable tourism businesses and green investment, like allowing guest houses to accommodate travelers supporting local communities (see permit requirement here). From an expert opinion, this permit lacks are a pre-permit and audit assessment of environmental impact. And a simple course (hints or test) on resource management ‒best use of local resources such as water and of fresh food for example. In Lebanon resorting to traditional connections with the land, could be the best solution, it still exist in remote regions and is one generation away in most rural areas. It would also be helpful to have an adjacent guide for travelers on how to act responsibly within conservative communities.

Sustainable tourism including ecotourism is a solution to marginalization and lack of stewardship, among other problems, specifically in developing economies. With sustainable tourism comes responsible advancement of connections with local communities. It provides local jobs for youth and women taking pride of their local traditional heritage. One direct way to making money locally selling locally prepared traditional food and crafts, and becoming tour guides, indirect ways are reflected in the money spent and invested within the local communities. Sustainable tourism development also empowers women in their own homes, offering ‘guest house’ accommodation and receiving responsible travelers. A live example of this sustainable cycle of development is featured in a short movie about the Lebanon Mountain Trail, the movie gives an example of a concrete responsible tourism project already flourishing across Lebanon in around 70 villages.

When we invite people to invest in sustainable tourism, we are at the same time inviting them to bring in solutions to real positive impact development that contributes to solutions.

Tourism investment is crucial and important for the economic development of Lebanon, nevertheless. Sustainable tourism is more important for its impact on the preservation and conservation of the country’s last well-kept treasures. If well implemented, it ensures local natural and cultural heritage is not abused. Let’s consider the regions that unintentionally fell into oblivion, as well-protected nature, and advocate for a well-planned eco-friendly planning and growth.

Thinking investment, let’s think impactful investment that puts nature and people’s well-being first.

#tourisminvestment #WorldLebnaeseCulturalUniverstity #stewardsofparadise #ecotourism #sustainabletourism #resorts #fairtradetourism #greentourism #switchmed #switchers #greenmediterranean #BeyondBeirut #akkartrail #lebanesediaspora

By Lebanese Diaspora we mean the immigrants who left Lebanon’s homeland to settle in other countries. Immigration from Lebanon happened in many waves since the 1800s and it is estimated to have a community of immigrants that is 3 times the size of the population in Lebanon.

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