A ru­ral pas­sion

Michel Pharaon, the cur­rent Le­banese Min­is­ter of Tourism, is one of the first gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials to sup­por t ru­ral tourism. Dur­ing his time in of­fice he’s vis­ited many re­gions, pro­mot­ing the di­verse riches of Le­banon. LT met with Min­is­ter Pharaon to unc

Lebanon Traveler - - INTERVIEW - Florence De­lande

WHY IS RU­RAL TOURISM IM­POR­TANT FOR YOU AND THE MIN­ISTRY OF TOURISM (MOT)?

Ru­ral tour ism has an im­mense po­ten­tial still un­tapped. It can re­vi­tal­ize whole re­gions, stim­u­late eco­nomic devel­op­ment, and most im­por tantly, re­store Le­banon’s im­age as a countr y of great cul­tural and his­tor ical wealth.

WHAT UP­COM­ING PROJECTS IS THE MOT WORK­ING ON?

We would like to sup­por t the elab­o­ra­tion of a net­work of guest­houses through­out the countr y. It is also our plan to launch a global day for Le­banese cui­sine, with a web­site that would fea­ture a fine se­lec­tion of tra­di­tional Le­banese recipes.

WHAT ARE LE­BANON’S TOURIS­TIC AP­PEALS?

Le­banon seems to be tai­lored for tourism. It is in our blood, since we have a great sense of hos­pi­tal­ity. We speak mul­ti­ple lan­guages; en­joy bril­liant sum­mer nightlife, di­verse win­ter sports and re­fined culi­nar y tra­di­tions. What is more, there are many re­gions that are still un­ex­plored and un­known to the Le­banese peo­ple and the di­as­pora.

YOU VIS­ITED THE AKKAR RE­GION RE­CENTLY; CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT ITS HID­DEN GEMS?

Akkar is one of the most beau­ti­ful re­gions of Le­banon. Switzer­land has noth­ing for us to envy. Akkar en­com­passes val­leys, forests and moun­tains as far as the eye can see, and its in­hab­i­tants re­spect the en­vi­ron­ment. I was struck by the youth’s en­thu­si­asm dur ing my hike with the Le­banese Moun­tain Trail. Last but not least, ‘La vallée de la croix’ is of in­dis­putable beauty.

YOU LAUNCHED THE CAM­PAIGN ‘LIVE LOVE LE­BANON’ LAST YEAR; WHAT IS THE CAM­PAIGN’S PROGRESS?

When I joined the Min­istry of Tourism, there was a ram­pant sense of de­pres­sion. I wanted to in­fuse new en­thu­si­asm for the coun­try, and re­ju­ve­nate the touris­tic sec­tor. We launched ‘Live Love Le­banon’ which was more than just a theme; it soon be­came a so­cial move­ment. Le­banon rep­re­sents a crit­i­cal pil­lar for the de­fence of many cul­tural val­ues in the re­gion, and ‘Live Love Le­banon’ fu­elled an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for this role, and the so­ci­etal im­per­a­tive to up­hold it.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE LE­BANESE DISH?

As you can imag­ine I am pas­sion­ate about Le­banese food. It would be eas­ier to ask me what I do not like. Un­for tu­nately, I am al­ler­gic to gar­lic and onions.

Min­is­ter Michel Pharaon en­joy­ing a bi­cy­cle ride

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