This blog is written with the intent of knowledge mobilization, specifically among Lebanese Diaspora groups. It is not aimed for the academic or professional society, rather for public awareness.
This is one 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 people invited are the *Lebanese Diaspora (the post was written by a representative of one major Lebanese Diaspora group, WLCU World Lebanese Cultural University.)
Putting a forgotten paradise-like region on the touristic map may be dangerous. It is better to issue laws that protect the region and its resources first. The goal is to limit the built environment development to norms accepted by ecotourism standards that respect local natural and cultural heritage; otherwise, regions will develop in a way that is exhaustive; like what is happening in South America; or like what happened to the beautiful coastal mountains 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, 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 sewage.
The solution is to limit building and infrastructure development and investment to ecotourism standards, which promotes protection of natural resources 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). What this permit lacks is the insistence and audit instruction of best use of local resources and also a guide for travelers on how to act responsibly within conservative communities.
Sustainable tourism is a solution to many of the world problems, specifically in developing economies. With sustainable tourism comes responsible advancement of local communities taking pride of their local traditional heritage. One direct way to making money from 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. This investment 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 the Lebanon Mountain Trail, the movie gives an example of a concrete project already flourishing in Lebanon.
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 that for the preservation and conservation of its well-kept treasure and to make sure it is not abused. Let’s consider the regions that unintentionally fell into oblivion, well-protected and advocate for a well-planned eco-friendly planning and growth.
Thinking investment, let’s think nature and people’s well-being as well.
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By Lebanese Diaspora we mean the immigrants who left Lebanon’s homeland to settle in other countries and continents.