The Mediterranean’s varied landscapes and ecosystems, along with its rich cultural heritage, make it an ideal region to support eco-tourism. The Shouf Biosphere Reserve’s Mirna Riman, explains the Mediterranean Experience of Eco-Tourism (MEET) project and its role in helping to build a sustainable tourism industry in Lebanon
What is MEET?
The Mediterranean Experience of Ecotourism (MEET) project aims to expand the diversity of tourism and encourage better seasonal distribution across the Mediterranean region. In a network of eight countries of the Mediterranean (Italy, France, Spain, Jordan, Lebanon, Malta, Greece and Tunisia) the project hopes to help boost the countries’ socio-economic development. The Shouf Biosphere Reserve is the partner coordinating communication strategy, tools and dissemination.
The MEET project has created a cluster of ecotourism packages in 25 Mediterranean protected areas. The project beneficiaries in Lebanon, in addition to the Shouf Biosphere Reserve, are Jabal Moussa Biosphere Reserve, Horsh Ehden Nature Reserve, Tannourine Cedar Nature Reserve, and Tyre Coast Nature Reserve. The aim is to improve the quality of the ecotourism on offer in protected areas in order to build appealing packages, which will help to conserve natural and cultural resources and revitalize less developed communities.
Local and international ecotourism experts have been involved to develop these packages through training of the protected areas’ team, in order to increase their ability in welcoming and dealing with overseas tourists. “This project offers the reserves in Lebanon a great chance to exchange experiences with [its] Mediterranean partners,” says Kamal Abu Assi, project coordinator in the Shouf Biosphere Reserve. “They are benefiting from test visits carried out by international experts and representatives of ecotourism companies to improve the services in our protected areas.”
The ecotourism packages
“Two ecotourism packages were created through the project ‘Lebanon Cedars and Sea Phoenicia Package,’ that includes six days in the Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve and Tyre Coastal Nature Reserve,” Pascal Abdullah, the ecotourism expert in the project and the manager of Responsible Mobilities says. “In addition to the nature reserves, the package includes cultural heritage sites such as the monuments of Tyre, the traditional village of Deir El Kamar and Beiteddine Palace. The second package, ‘Lebanon Myth, Forests and Adventures,’ includes Jabal Moussa Biosphere Reserve, Horsh Ehden Nature Reserve and Tannourine Cedar Nature Reserve.”
On a seven-day journey, visitors can roam through North Lebanon’s mythical landscapes…
The packages offer diverse experiences around the country, where visitors can discover the rich heritage of lands that were once inhabited by the Phoenicians and explore the cities where they left their mark. They include visits to the country’s most stunning protected natural habitats from the oldest cedar forests in history to the sandy beaches of the Tyre Coast Nature Reserve. Local tour operators carefully tailor the tours to offer visitors an authentic experience – from hiking along countryside trails to learning about traditional life, meeting local villagers and tasting food from different regions. With a sustainable tourism approach, the tours have a responsible attitude towards travel, encouraging an understanding of nature and respect towards the environment through protection activities and an understanding of local traditions.
On a seven-day journey, visitors can roam through North Lebanon’s mythical landscapes, uncovering a mosaic of history, culture and village life that is worth protecting. Meet the locals of Jabal Moussa Biosphere Reserve, who decided to protect the valley of the Phoenician God Adonis; learn about Maronite history and how to write your name in the Syriac language with a monk in the Qadisha Valley; enjoy the majestic scenery of the northern Lebanon chain and immerse yourself with the scents of the last protected cedar forests and be enchanted by local stories in the protected forests of Tannourine and Ehden. Take the time to breathe freely and enjoy the journey.