Support To Rural Hospitality Businesses
The DHIAFEE Project, launched in 2005 by ANERA, and funded by USAID represents one of the first significant efforts to explore the potential of rural tourism in Lebanon to contribute to the expansion of economic opportunities in rural areas. Lebanon is rich in resources that could be leveraged to extend economic development to all of its regions. Its location, natural and historical treasures, and its cultural richness are spread across the country, and have contributed to making tourism a strategic sector to the economy. Even with the political turbulence in the region and, at times, inside the country, tourism has always exhibited remarkable resilience.
In 2012, tourism in Lebanon was projected to generate $4.3 billion2 in direct revenue and provide roughly 9.5 percent of total employment in Lebanon. Unfortunately, the bulk of these benefits remain concentrated in the capital city, Beirut, and its immediate surroundings, in addition to very few highly renowned historical sites. Reasons for this imbalance are many, the most crucial of which is the lack of reliable, quality hospitality services outside the capital city Beirut. This is exacerbated by the absence of a national tourism strategy to support tourism sector growth in rural regions.
The DHIAFEE Project aimed at leveraging the unique advantages of Lebanon as a small country, where multiple points of interest can easily be reached from almost anywhere, to spread the economic benefits of tourism to rural areas. The project, which was then a one-time investment, supported the development of a network of more than 47 alternative lodgings (or “cottage inns”) throughout the country, creating income generation and job opportunities for local families, and contributing to the economy of their respective localities. Although affected by the onset of 2006 war and successive political turmoil and security issues, DHIAFEE had a very successful launch and enjoyed a high profile, at the time, among tourism stakeholders.
Tourism continues to be a major sector in the local economy, especially given the resilience of expatriate demand, and rise of local demand for short get-away locations. In 2011, and largely due to a concerted lobbying effort by DHIAFEE/ANERA team, a new decree, #6298, was passed legalizing the status of guesthouses and bed and breakfasts in Lebanon.
In this project, ANERA will build upon the progress of DHIAFEE project and move forward on to the next level including: 1) expand, solidify and institutionalize the rural hospitality infrastructure; and 2) encourage activities of responsible tourism to contribute meaningfully to the local economy.