Lebanon Businessnews News

Religious tourism expecting a boost soon
Italy funds market research
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The Ministry of Tourism (MoT) has launched an initiative aimed at developing religious tourism across the country. The plan aims to enhance and expand the scope of touristic products and services, while strengthening inter-religious dialogue.

The religious tourism plan will propose work schedules and marketing strategies to promote pilgrimages and religious tourism.

The first step will be funded by Italy and will set up a database qualified religious sites, the potential target market, and ways to manage successful religious tourism. The findings will be used to explore tourism development opportunities. The MoT has already assigned a cultural and religious unit to cooperate with an Italian committee.

The second stage will involve infrastructure enabling and funding, and will rely on the private sector’s contribution, the MoT said.

Local travel agencies often organize travel packages with visits to holy sites and monuments. Nadine Chahly, Senior Sales Executive at Nakhal Travel said: “Religious sites are part of our culture and tourists are eager to visit them during tours.” Nakhal has four tours that include visits to religious places: Cedars-Bcharri-Kozhaya Monastery; Byblos-Jeita-Harissa; Sidon-Tyr-Maghdouchi; and Down Town-Beit El Din-Deir el Qamar. “Harissa is the number one site on our list as it is the most requested by both Christian and Muslim tourists.” Visitors are mainly Lebanese expatriates, Iraqis, and Turks, she said.

Nakhal used to organize tours solely dedicated to pilgrimages. These tours were mainly adopted by older tourists from Europe who visited sacred sites and stayed at monasteries. “There was much more demand on these tours when there was more stability,” Chahly said. Nakhal still organizes pilgrimage tours upon request. “These packages currently represent around 10 to 15 percent of our clients,” she said.

Nakhal plans to increase the frequency of visits to sacred places, along with the number of tours, upon the implementation of the MoT’s plan. “Having tourists focusing on a particular area will attract investments in tourism developments, such as building new hotels and facilities,” Chahly said.
Reported by Rana Freifer
Date Posted: Jan 24, 2013
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