Lebanon has ratified the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism and the “Ana” initiative, targeting Lebanese expatriates, in a ceremony held at Biel at the invitation of the Minister of Tourism, Michel Pharaon, and concurrently with the visit of the United Nations’ World Tourism Organization Secretary General, Dr.Taleb D. Rifai, to Lebanon.
During the event, the United Nations Organization launched the international tourism project entitled “The Phoenician’s Route” in the presence of the Ministers of Culture, Rony Araiji, and of the Displaced, Alice Chabtini and deputies Serge Torsarkissian, Neemtallah Abi Nasr and Gilberte Zouein. Were present as well, the representative of the Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces Brigadier-General Jean Kahwaji, General Said Kozah, the representative of the Director General of General Security Directorate Major General Abbas Ibrahim, Engineer General Dany Fares, the representative of the General Director of the State Security Major General Georges Karaa, General Edmond Ghosn, the president of the Economic and Social Council, Roger Nasnas and prominent figures from trade unions and diplomatic, social and touristic fields.
After the National Anthem, Rifai addressed his speech where he asserted that “in spite of all the global economic, environmental and health challenges, tourism has proven itself to be a robust industry. In fact, more than 7% of the global population would travel and visit one country in the world. Moreover, tourism creates new job opportunities, generates additional jobs, guarantees communication amongst people and upholds peace, hope and love in the world”.
“Despite all the challenges facing Lebanon, this initiative launched today by the Minister of Tourism Michel Pharaon, constitutes a message from Lebanon to the world, a message that, in the face of obscurity, celebrates the diversity and uniqueness of Lebanon… and this is why we are here today”, added Rifai.
“We are also here to praise the efforts of the Minister of Tourism, Michel Pharaon, who chose to gather the Lebanese diaspora and launched this important initiative, “The Phoenicians Route””, said Rifai, asking, “why is this project important?”.
“because it proves that Lebanon is still capable of launching initiatives and because it shows that the Phoenicians were pioneers in globalization, since they were the first to sail towards other lands. Their influence persists today where Lebanese people are spread in all corners of the world”, added Rifai revealing the importance of this project.
“This initiative is also important for more than 18 countries in the region”, noted Rifai, while stressing “its importance is not exclusive to one particular country, but guarantees communication between a large number of states in the region”.
In the same context, Rifai praised the efforts of the Minister of Tourism “who managed in a short period of time to change the country’s image perception. He was capable of renewing the touristic activity and consecrating the hope and joy that characterize Lebanon”. Rifai added: “I work with approximately 160 ministers of tourism all over the world; I sensed Minister Pharaon’s positive energy in launching a project that connects 14 million Lebanese abroad to their home country. He has also launched the rural tourism initiative by which he has proven that tourism is not only limited to cities but also reaches rural areas. He encourages tourists to visit the Lebanese rural areas and experience the real genuine Lebanon when visiting the humble rural houses, in addition to the “Live Love Lebanon” campaign.”
Pharaon extended in the beginning of his speech his thanks to “His Excellency the Secretary General Dr. Taleb Rifai whom is considered to be a brother and friend to me and to many Lebanese people. I thank him for his attention and his continuous generous support towards our beloved country in every international exhibition or forum. His stance reveals his love to Lebanon that he considers as his second country. His is always keen to preserve Lebanon’s stability and unique role in defending the civilizational values in this region that is facing serious threats and challenges. In addition to serving as the main person in charge of the tourism sector in the world, a sector that is rapidly growing to reach one billion one hundred million tourists a year, Dr. Rifai is also the sole Arab president of a UN agency. His personality reflects the image of the Arab civilization; he is driven by his desire to generate joy in the face of death and underdevelopment, giving advice and support, and keenness in following on projects. Factors that have contributed greatly in helping me to develop the tourism sector in Lebanon and explore new tourism paths and follow on existing initiatives launched by governmental, non-governmental and private sector organizations”.
In his speech, Pharaon noted “when we took office in the Ministry back in February 2014, the tourism sector was suffering from a real crisis with a decrease of around 40% in the numbers of tourists between 2011 and the end of 2013 due to the political and security turmoil in the country. In addition to the drop in the number of Lebanese visitors, the country was witnessing a smothering economic and social crisis. There has been an internal and external political agreement, the security plan has been implemented and gained success and the political crisis was kept under the reign of security and the constitution. In light of the internal and external consensus and the determination to fight terrorism inside the country and at the borders, there has been and still is an opportunity to stimulate the sector and activate the lacking dynamic, as well as launching medium term initiatives to open or organize new projects with the involvement of experts. This would help generating benefits and sustainable movement after years of work while investing Lebanon’s unique potential at different levels”.
In this context, Pharaon mentioned that “the Ministry’s work has focused on:
1- The “Live Love Lebanon” campaign, following the exceptional activity of organizations and the private sector in Lebanon, supporting the vital force keen on defending Lebanon’s Sovereignty, supporting the army and the security forces, on one hand, and defending art, culture and preserving the attachment to what characterizes Lebanon in terms of freedom and democracy, in addition to refusing the culture of racism, injustice, terrorism, dictatorship and extremism. These vital resources are determined to pursue their unique activity during the summer and in all seasons. Moreover, the Ministry is building all current capacities in the industry, implementing reforms in the Ministry in collaboration with the Ministry of Administrative Development to facilitate paperwork, and holding workshops to improve productivity in the sector’s marketing or statistics collection and analysis.
2- Activating or launching new projects that would hopefully be adopted rapidly by a new government, after the election of a new President. The most important projects include:
- Organizing and keeping pace with the medical tourism.
- Activating rural tourism through a five-year plan and forming a multi- ministerial committee to keep pace with this highly important sector by investing unique capacities in rural areas starting by the beauty of people and the charm of nature to the existing, yet unknown, archeological ruins. His Excellency the Prime Minister Tammam Salam has honored us by launching this project few weeks ago with the participation and support of my esteemed colleagues.
- Organizing and activating spiritual tourism, which is the goal that many organizations and relevant entities are working to achieve by activating a project launched by the former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and funded by an Italian grant. The project was suspended during the former governmental mandate and has been reactivated by the Serail, the Italian Embassy and the Ministry few days ago. As for the two projects that will be announced today, they are dear to our hearts and yours and are the fruit of months-long efforts. The first project is that of expatriates’ tourism”.
In this regard, Pharaon stressed that “it is an utmost priority to succeed in this project in light of the need to activate expatriates’ visits to Lebanon and the outcomes of such visits at many levels. The philosophy of this project is to encourage every expatriate, through incentives, to visit Lebanon at least once in his lifetime. This project has been adopted by both the State and civil society in order to promote a continuous movement in this direction. We were also encouraged by His Excellency Nabih Berri, Tammam Salam, the Patriarch Al Raii, expatriates associations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants and the Directorate of Immigration.” “The project shall be developed and launched in its final version in few month, in collaboration with the World Tourism Organization”, added Pharaon.
“The second project that has been adopted by the Secretary General with great enthusiasm upon its submission is a project that surpasses Lebanon in its size and requires the intervention of the World Tourism Organization. However, this project is deeply rooted in Lebanon’s tradition and history, which is why it has been announced in Lebanon and developed by numerous researchers in Lebanon, some of whom are present with us today, because Phoenicians paved the way from Lebanon for civilizations in the Middle East and Europe for more than 2000 years. Therefore, we should highlight even more the aspects of this history, preserve it, and promote it globally”. In a word to the World Tourism Organization, Pharaon “thanked the organization for adopting this project, as well as the UNESCO that showed its will to participate in the project, the ASCAME and their new president Mr. Mohammad Choukeir who showed their enthusiasm towards contributing to this project”.
Addressing the public, Pharaon said: “Tourism is a type of dialogue between people that sheds light on what distinguishes us, what we want to share with the world and be proud of in terms of culture, heritage, science, beauty, knowledge, innovation, taste or traditions. It is the hospitality and artisan spirit, it is a civilization, it is how we preserve, invest and develop our capacities to attract and grasp admiration and an invitation to a comfortable visit within the laws, rules, ethics and manners that provide guarantees for tourists”.
“Expatriates’ tourism, the Phoenician’s Route, rural tourism or medical tourism complement our source of pride today in Lebanon: the capacities of the tourism sector in terms of hotels, restaurants, and exceptional touristic and seasonal festivals during summer and winter as well as conference and business tourism. All of these components make Lebanon a unique country that led the foundations of tourism in the region. These capacities should be fully invested to boost our economy, generate job opportunities and create a positive sustainable movement that wins over frustration and uplifts morals. In a world that is witnessing a high touristic growth, this is an open opportunity that constitutes an additional incentive to protect our stability, put an end to polemics and means of obstruction and work for the sake of Lebanon; first by electing a new President, not involving Lebanon in crisis, refusing the current suicidal path in the region and preserve our borders, whether the border of sovereignty or that of civilization and improve its preservation before charging future generations of protecting it”.
In turn, Alain Hochar, Managing Director of M&C Saatchi presented a detailed explanation about the “ANA” Project. “This historical initiative entitled “Ana””, he said, “ is a program aiming at attracting and encouraging around 10 million people of Lebanese origins in the world to discover their roots and visit Lebanon, at least once”. Hochar noted that the Ministry of Tourism “has set an incentive package with exclusive prices tailored for different budgets”.
Concerning the means of participation in this program, “the expatriate should visit “Ana” website to register, enter information about his family and chose one of the four available packages: 12 or 24 days, normal or luxurious. After completing this process, the user receives primary data about his Lebanese roots and detailed information about the trip”, explained Hochar.
In order to reach the biggest number possible of expatriates, Hochar announced that the Ministry “will launch a media campaign with a message that revives their desire to discover their origins under the title: “Where are you from?”.
In order to guarantee the success of “Ana” initiative, the Ministry will “appoint a committee to forge a partnership with relevant ministries, embassies, governmental departments, non-governmental organizations, airline companies, teachers, individuals from the private sector and tour organizers”, added Hochar.
In his turn, the World Tourism Organization Regional Director in the Middle East affirmed that “the initiative launched by the Minister of Tourism, Michel Pharaon, is very significant for several reasons, mainly because it develops ties between tourism and culture and its starting point is one of the most important civilizations in the world, the Phoenician civilization; it promotes the cultural diversity policy, and is a global socio- economic project. At the same time, this initiative strengthens the economic and cultural ties and dialogue amongst 18 states visited by the Phoenicians in the region and would also help participant countries to reach a better future.”
The Chief of Communication at the World Tourism Organization, Sandra Carvao defined in her presentation the first steps of the project’s launching, which will start by “studying project proposals, building a network of participants, and implementing a two-year action plan for the project”.
“The project will not be sustained without a close collaboration between the private and public sectors”, assured Carvao before thanking Lebanon for “this initiative” and expressing her confidence towards the “success of the project”.
Ratifying the Code of Ethics
After these words, Abdul Ghaffar and Carvao invited Pharaon and Rifai to sign the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism that was signed as well by representatives of the private sector: The Head of the Beirut Chamber of Commerce Mohammad Choukeir, the Chairman of the Marine Tourist Operations, Jean Beiruti, The President of the Lebanese Association for Licenses of Excellence, Charles Arbid, the representative of the Middle East Airline, Nizar Khoury and Khaled Nazha on behalf of the head of the Syndicate of Owners of in Lebanon, Tony Ramy.
The Phoenician’s Route
The Ministry of Tourism clarified in a statement that the Phoenician’s Route “has joined the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe in 2003 as an international Route that passed through 18 Mediterranean states and more than 80 Phoenician cities. It embraces archaeological, ethnic, anthropological, cultural and natural sites, in addition to being a network of cultural sharing amongst Mediterranean people and states”.
The Ministry noted that “the project emanated from the initiative of His Excellency the Minister of Tourism and is considered as one of three pioneering projects, the Phoenician’s Route, The Holy Family Path, the Pearl Route, chosen by the Middle East Committee in the United Nations Global Tourism Organisation in its thirty ninth session (Cairo – September 2014), to promote development and regional integration at the national and international level, provided that they are implemented within the years 2015- 2016”.
The Ministry summarized the objectives of the cultural touristic programs based on “the Phoenician’s Route” by the following:
‾ “Making the Phoenician’s Route a globally renowned touristic experience.
‾ Providing high quality infrastructure and touristic products and generating many valuable jobs.
‾ Creating collaborative ties in tourism development and marketing between the eighteen countries on the Phoenician’s Route.
‾ Promoting multiculturalism, dialogue and collaboration between cultures as a main tool to activate social cohesion, solidarity and peace.
‾ Locating Lebanon as the pivot of collaboration projects in the field of cultural tourism development and marketing in cities and ports of Carthaginian - Phoenician roots.”
In order to achieve these objectives, the Ministry noted that the “World Tourism Organisation will be responsible of profiling relevant projects to the Phoenician’s Route, identifying current and potential partners in the UN agencies, especially at the UNESCO, European Council, The European Institute of Cultural Routes, the 18 member states in the World Tourism Organisation, the private sector, the concerned institutions and the non-governmental organisations”.
In its statement, the Ministry mentioned that the “World Tourism Organisation” is developing in partnership with the Ministry of Tourism a two year action plan to present an integral vision of the development and marketing strategy of the Phoenician’s Route cultural program” and confirmed that the Organisation “will provide the program with all necessary support”.
At the end of the Statement, the Ministry stated that “April 2015 has been set to be the primary date for drafting the program’s preparatory phase. The drafting includes a feasibility study, implementation plan, budget and governance mechanisms”.