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Ecotourism in Lebanon and challenges


The Daily Star newspaper published a report today on ecotourism in Lebanon, highlighting its current context and the challenges it faces. Gilbert Mukhaiber, a passionate hiker, mountaineer and ecotourism engineer noted that ecotourism in Lebanon is currently limited to walks in natural reserves or hiking on mountain tracks. He explained that local community empowerment, rural development, sustainable food production, managing natural resources and the preservation of traditions and cultural heritage are all part of the experience. He further explained that efforts to spread awareness about the importance ecotourism were aimed more at the Lebanese than at foreign visitors, adding that in Lebanon, the culture of nature preservation does not exist, but the damage done to the environment in recent decades had raised concerns for protecting natural heritage.
As for challenges, Mukhaiber noted that conflicts and insecurity in many rural areas where some reserves are located, including North Lebanon and Beqaa, have made those sites off limit. He added that other challenges are related to uncontrolled urbanization and quarrying which have deprived Lebanon of more than 35 percent of its existing “green” space, thus negatively affecting ecotourism. Mukhaiber also noted that one of the big challenges ecotourism workers have to confront is the total lack of laws to regulate this part of the tourism sector. For his part, Shaker Noon, co-founder of Baldati, an ecology-oriented association, noted that despite the constraints, ecotourism is gaining popularity in Lebanon, and more people are showing interest in protecting the environment and investing in their own communities.
Source: The Daily Star 2 December 2014

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