The Lebanese Union for People with Physical Disabilities (LUPD), in partnership with the European Network for Inclusive Tourism, concluded the project "Tourism for All in Lebanon", implemented within the framework of AFKAR 3 program, funded by the European Union and managed by the Office of the Minister of State for Administrative Reform. This event took place during “The Second National Conference of Inclusive Tourism ", held at the Movenpick Hotel - Beirut, under the patronage and the presence of Her Excellency the Minister of State for Administrative Reform Dr. Inaya Ezzeddine. Attendees were the Minister of Tourism, Mr. Avedis Kedianian, the representatives of the Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, the tourism unions and the stakeholders.
At the beginning, the president of LUPD, Mrs. Silvana Lakkis, highlighted the importance, during the last two years, of the cooperation between several sectors in order to implement the leading tourism models in Lebanon and to overcome the obstacles to all members of the society. She also noted the effective partnership with the two ministers Ezzeddine and Kedianian, as well as with the tourism and services sectors, Jbeil, Baalbek and Tyre municipalities, and the Chouf cedar reserve. She hoped that the project will be a relevant model for communities, parties and regions.
Then, the Director of the European Network for Inclusive Tourism, Mrs. Grazia Laura, talked about the recent experiences of this institution in different regions of the world to introduce the concepts of tourism for all and to put it into practice through local partners, in collaboration with the public and private sectors. The experience in Lebanon has been described as one of the best in the Middle East. She hoped that the Lebanese tourism sector, after adopting the inclusive standards, will serve as a model for the region, which will enhance inclusive tourism.
The Minister of Tourism underlined that he supported a project of the LUPD since January 2017, until the launching of the Beirut Declaration of Tourism. He pointed out the importance of Lebanon being a touristic destination for all, considering that the concepts worked on in the project can provide a suitable basis to complete the work towards the inclusive tourism sector, especially through the tourism trade unions, in addition to the mutual benefits between companies, tourism institutions as well as disabled and non-disabled customers.
The Minister Ezzeddine focused on the development of concepts and terminology related to disability issues in Lebanon. She said that they are the consequence of a long struggle, culminated in the year 2000 by the law 220, and then by the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006. She pointed out that the two partnership projects within AFKAR 3 program in its two parts, clearly overcame the service approach to go to a social model, based on the respect for rights as well as the adoption of the principle of integration, and aims to achieve full participation and equality. The project encouraged municipalities in Lebanon to take these criterias into consideration in their plans. Through her work in the Parliament, the Minister promised to develop laws in order to serve equal opportunities and ensure an integration program to persons with disabilities. As well, she encouraged to promote partnerships and to build networks, in accordance with the model provided by the tourism union, through the "National Commission to Support Inclusive Tourism" between different sectors. She noted the efforts of AFKAR program team, which supports 13 projects of civil society organizations, as well as its work on the development of a public policy dialogue strategy between the public sector and civil society organizations.
The Executive Director of Programs at the LUPD, Mrs. Haneen el Chemali, presented the results of the project. She explained the modules provided in the four regions, the selection of leading models in collaboration with stakeholders, and the implementation process.
After the official ceremony, the first session of the conference began with the experiences of the three targeted cities, aiming to promote and disseminate the leading hybrid models in these areas, which were led by the consultant of the engineering unit in the LUPD, Mr. Bashar Abdel Samad. It was attended by representatives of the heads of municipal councils in Jbeil, Mr. Sam Zaarour, Baalbek Mr.Hussein al Lakkis, and Tyre Mr. Hassan Dabouk representing the municipal council member Dr. Randa Abu Saleh, as well as the director of the Shouf Cedar Reserve, Mr. Nizar Hani. The book "Tourism for All in Lebanon - Pilot Models" was presented. It is the first of its kind in the Arab world. The eight models stated in the book can be applied in all companies, public places and activities to make them merging.
The second session was dedicated to the presentation of successful experiences in the field of inclusive tourism and the testimony of the disabled youth Abdallah Fakih, who shared an experience in the employment of persons with disabilities in the tourism sector.
Finally, a ceremony was held to distribute certificates of innovative practices to municipalities and companies interacting with the project.