NNA – The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Lebanon Mountain Trail Association (LMTA), in the presence of U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Richard Michaels and representative of the Ministry of Tourism Maxime Chaaya, celebrated LMTA’s 15th anniversary and the Association’s contribution to Lebanon’s tourism sector. In 2007, USAID partnered with the Lebanese people to establish the Lebanon Mountain Trail Association (LMTA), which became one of Lebanon’s largest non-governmental organizations and has since expanded to support guest houses and restaurants along the trails. The event, organized by the LMTA and the USAID-funded Agriculture and Rural Empowerment (ARE) activity, brought together more than 300 experts and stakeholders from Lebanese rural communities and featured the ‘World Trails Film Festival’ for the first time in Lebanon and the Arab World. Ministry of Tourism’s representative, Maxime Chaaya,highlighted the importance of the LMTA and the projects implemented during the last 15 years to enhance the rural tourism sector in Lebanon. He voiced the support of the Ministry of Tourism to the LMTA in its efforts to develop environmental tourism to sustain the local economy. In his remarks, U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Richard Michaels stated, ‘I am pleased to join you this evening to celebrate the Lebanon Mountain Trail Association’s 15thanniversary. We are proud that the U.S. Government’s longstanding partnership with the Lebanese people is promoting environmentally sustainable economic opportunity through a vibrant tourism sector.’ LMTA’s board president, Alfred Farwagi, noted, ‘We are delighted to celebrate the LMTA’s 15th anniversary. It is a key milestone that cements the LMTA’s strategic relationship with USAID. It is through hard work, dedication, and perseverance that the Lebanon Mountain Trail has been recognized as a world class hiking destination, as the backbone of rural tourism in Lebanon, and as a platform for sustainable community development.’ Since its founding 15 years ago, the LMTA worked to develop, maintain, and protect the Lebanon Mountain Trail (LMT); to establish side trails off of the LMT; to protect natural, cultural, and architectural heritage; and to enhance economic opportunities through responsible tourism. The LMT is the first long-distance hiking trail in Lebanon and crosses 75 towns and villages. It showcases the natural beauty and cultural wealth of the country’s mountains and brings communities closer together. USAID support also included the renovation of guesthouses, strengthening other service providers along the trail, and the training of local guides to sustain and create income opportunities in rural areas.

Source: National News Agency – Lebanon