The small village of Ebl Al Saqi in southern Lebanon expected hundreds of tourists to take part in the Bird Festival and other bird-watching activities in the summer.
The festival attracts visitors from dozens of countries. But that dream dissolved after the 34-day war in July 2006 when all bookings at the Ebl Al Saqi Guest House were cancelled.
The rural inn is one of 30 tourist sites in the “DHIAFEE” program that helps cottage inns in rural areas across Lebanon to promote tourism and small business development. DHIAFEE comes from the Lebanese word for hospitality. It stands for Developing the Hospitality Industry’s Abilities – Fostering Economic Expansion.
Women in Ebl Al Saqi learn about rural tourism
Samira and her husband Mounah own the Ebl Al Saqi Guest House. “We built our guest house in 23 days,” Samira says proudly. “Though we faced many problems during construction, we really believed in what we were doing and kept pressing forward.” Samira has a story about each guest room. “I wanted to make sure our guests felt comfortable when they came to visit. We hoped this summer would bring tourists. We thought we would need more space to accommodate all the guests.”
In anticipation of being overbooked, Samira invited several women from the village to open their homes as bed and breakfast destinations for the DHIAFEE program. “I thought they could earn money and meet new people too,” Samira says.
Samira and the other women attended the ANERA training to learn about hospitality services. “It was really interesting because there are some rules we must follow to run a successful guest house—rules we were not aware of before the training,” she said.
Even though the summer guests aren’t coming, the women of Ebl Al Saqi remain optimistic. “There are many other tourist, historical and ecotourism activities here and in surrounding villages. We are confident this project will be successful.”
DHIAFEE works with owners of cottage inns throughout Lebanon to help them create plans for developing and improving their facilities to better meet the needs of potential clients and to help improve their marketing strategies. The program also teaches the technical skills necessary for day-to-day management of the inns. The DHIAFEE project is a partnership between ANERA and Al Kafa’at Foundation.