As election fever grips the country, the vote for a new government has been on the mind of every Lebanese this past week. With limited job opportunities currently available a group of fourteen young people gathered this week in Lebanon to participate in training sessions held by CIFA (Centre pour L’Insertion par la Formation et l’Activite). The courses are aimed at contributing to the quality and efficiency of services provided by tour leaders in the region.
Tourist arrivals to the Middle East remain stable, despite the global credit crises, and Lebanese tour operators are optimistic that their country will once again be the hub of the region. Syria and Jordan have been witnessing a vast increase in incoming tourism due to intensive marketing efforts and renewed interest by Europeans to discover the region. While many tourists come to the Middle East to visit world famous sites such as Baalbek, Petra, and Palmyra, others look beyond and also wish to discover rural regions and meet the local community.
CIFA (Centre pour L’Insertion par la Formation et l’Activite), a nonprofit organization, was founded by TLB Destinations in 2005 to focus on the linkages between tourism, conservation, and sustainable development, within the growing movement for responsible tourism. TLB Destinations, a Lebanese incoming tour operator specializing in adventure tours introduced a new concept – known today as responsible tourism – since it began operations 12 years ago. The company’s philosophy is to plan tours to benefit the community by employing local tour leaders and suppliers as well as encouraging stays with rural villagers or small family owned lodgings.
This month sessions are part of CIFA’s training program aimed at improving the skills of those working in the tourism industry as well as contributing towards sustainable labor development in the Middle East. CIFA has established a training center in order to train unemployed locals to become tour leaders thus creating new job opportunities. Tour leaders are trained to safeguard local heritage and traditions and improve knowledge to protect the environment and biodiversity, as well as providing a professional service for travelers. This month’s training for the participants is being sponsored by tour operator TLB Destinations within its program to contribute to sustainable development.
“A well-trained tour leader can safeguard a country’s heritage and environment, as well as improve contact between travelers and local communities, thus building bridges between East and West,” says Johnny Bou Ghosn, head of training at CIFA.
The training is currently being concluded with a 2-day mountain hike with overnight camping in the north of Lebanon to improve knowledge of safety standards in trekking and to build leadership skills. “I have gained a lot of knowledge during this training, and it has been great to exchange ideas with the participants from other countries,” says Hassan, a Lebanese participant.”This is a new opportunity to me and I am really excited about becoming a tour leader.”
For more information, please visit www.cifa-me.org