BEIRUT: Tourism Minister Michel Pharaon distributed certificates Tuesday to 18 female Russian tour guides graduating from the governmental tourism program, the first wave of women to join a new initiative targeting tourists from Russia in line with an expected increase this year.
According to the ministry’s Director-General Nada Sardouk, the program requires three months of training in various cultural, historic, and touristic cites across Lebanon. Participants are required to sit a final exam that determines their ability to work as official tour guides for the ministry.
Participants in the program must have the Lebanese nationality, hold a university degree, and speak either French or English alongside Russian.
Sardouk told The Daily Star the program was relying on Russian women because degrees in Russian were rare in Lebanon and few people spoke the language fluently.
The ministry has announced a visit from the Red Army orchestra on Sept. 14 and 15, expected to attract a large number of Russians. Similarly, Sardouk said Russian travel agencies visiting cultural and historic sites in Lebanon earlier this week expressed great satisfaction with the guides provided and assured the ministry that they would work to place Lebanon on Russia’s tourism map.
After a wave of car bombs targeting various parts of the country early 2013 and late 2014, the country seems to be settling into a calmer period that the tourism industry hopes will bring back much-needed visitors.
In Tripoli, a security plan that went into effect April 1 has put a stop to the sectarian fighting that has plagued the city for the past three years. Similarly, a security plan in the Bekaa Valley launched April 10 has contributed to ending a spate of suicide attacks.
The improving security prompted Saudi Arabia to retract a travel warning against the country and the UAE to lift its travel ban, but hotel reservations are still thin on the ground and are not expected to pick up until after the holy month of Ramadan.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 04, 2014, on page 4.