“Lebanon is a way of Life that is unique and special,” is how Saudi Prince Sultan Bin Abdel Aziz Bin Salman Al Saud described Lebanon to Joseph Sarkis, Lebanon’s minister of tourism, at the opening session of the 10th Assembly of Arab Tourism Ministers’ conference last month.
The gathering was held at the Metropolitan Hotel in Beirut where Arab delegates and ministers convened to discuss ways of boosting the tourism sector in the Arab world and to show support for Lebanon after the devastating July war of last year.
Algerian Minister Nour al dine Mousa expressed his joy at being in Lebanon and commended the Arab ministers on their achievements in the tourism sector, while expressing a need for tourism development and a strategy to help bolster investment. He suggested the establishment of a fund, and an Arab tourism website entitled, ‘Know your nation’. He also pointed to the importance of developing desert tourism in southern Algeria.
Mawaheb Khalaf, who heads the tourism administration, transportation and electricity sector in the Arab called the conference an opportunity to help the Lebanese tourism sector regain its momentum. She said the purpose of the conference was to develop tourism in the Arab world and to bolster tourism investment regionally, by improving the quality of services and providing training so regional destinations can compete on equal ground with international destinations.
For his part, Lebanon’s minister of Tourism Joseph Sarkis said, “Lebanon is passing through a difficult political and economical phase that have had negative repercussions on the country. Prior to the July war, Lebanon was witnessing a boom in the number of tourists coming to the country, in addition to a great number of investment projects.” He added that Lebanon will continue to search for ways to attract tourists, despite the hardships the country is going through.
In describing the goals of the conference, Sarkis said there was a need for more coordination among Arab tourism experts, for the creation of a strategy to improve tourism in the Arab world, increased representation of Arab tourism delegates at international conferences and exhibitions, the development of an Arab tourism dictionary, improved relations with the Arab Organization for Administrative Development, and for long term training workshops.
As for whether or not Lebanon will see a tourism surge this summer, Sarkis said, “I can't be pessimistic but I can't be optimistic either. We have to wait and see.” He said he was pleased with the number of delegates who attended the conference: “Having so many delegates from Arab nations shows the support and appreciation these nations have for Lebanon. I hope the conference will show what type of Lebanon the Lebanese want: a Lebanon which is free from assassinations, wars, turmoil, and confrontation.”
by Raghada Mugharbil
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