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Joined: 09 Mar 2007
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Location: Jbeil Byblos

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Local guides via the web

Imagine a journey where Lebanon's most wonderful hidden treasures are revealed. Imagine stopping every now and then to appreciate true beauty, to learn about the land's history, heritage and culture through the compelling stories of an elderly villager, through the intriguing craft of an artisan or through the taste of a traditional homemade dish. This is real tourism with a twist! And, it's exactly what Tourtwist thrives on.

Christina El-Hayek takes a look at Tourtwist, a new social platform aimed at offering tourists, both foreign and Lebanese, the opportunity to identify and connect with locals. Visits to Lebanon are instantly customized and vacations turn into unique cultural experiences. The local Lebanese population will thus be granted the chance to create tours in their beloved hometowns, and provide insider access to some of the most hidden gems that they alone are best equipped to introduce.

How does Tourtwist work? Locals create their own profiles on the platform, in which they list their passions, skills, and knowledge, and by doing so they become one of the many other local guides, eager to unveil the beauty of their hometowns to tourists.

Additionally, a rating system will be incorporated and potential tourists will be able to select their own local guide, based on multiple filters such as languages spoken, tour types, prices, most recommended sites, regions, etc… Videos and testimonials will be available on the website, as well as unique content about untapped towns, in a bid to offer tourists the most genuine and personal tourism experience.

In fact, Tourtwist itself was created from a personal tourism experience. Aware of the fact that 84% of all tourism receipts are spent within Beirut, and having witnessed some of the neglected natural beauties beyond the capital, Tourtwist founders Pierre Daher, Pascale Baaklini, Jessica Abou Haydar and Ghady Felfleh came up with this project in an effort to decentralize part of the tourism industry. As passionate Lebanese entrepreneurs and travel adepts, they have set their hearts on boosting development in rural areas- in about 1,648 towns and villages - by providing job opportunities and increased economic turnover.

Tourtwist has won the Keep Walking Project* in 2012 as the best Social Entrepreneurship Initiative and was the winner of the Maurice Fadel Prize in 2011. Tourtwist strives to inspire and support young people in creating a positive impact on the development of their hometowns and local economy, to protect and develop endangered local cultures and crafts.

In other words, responsible tourism is at the core of Tourtwist's business. The expected social impact is directly in line with the pillars agreed upon in the 2002 Cape Town Declaration on Responsible Tourism. They include, generating greater economic benefits for local people, enhancing the wellbeing of host communities, providing enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with locals, and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues.
The dispersion of local guides around the country will help in sustaining small businesses in villages and provide a much-needed injection of economic activity to rural areas.

Tourtwist capitalizes on its collaboration with prominent local partners such as Beyond Beirut. Also, the online platform is developed through a strategic partnership with Keeward, a company that specializes in the intersection of culture and technology. It is a perfect fit for the project, since Keeward, a company that specializes in the intersection of culture and technology. It is a perfect fit for the project, since Keeward brings years of international experience to the platform's benefit. Tourtwist could not ask for a more fertile ground to flourish in, given its location in a country of tourism par excellence, with consumers who are taking increasing control over their travel arrangements and demanding more unusual holiday experiences.

Tourtwist launches in July of 2012, with plans on scaling internationally after testing the model domestically. Now that summer is on our doorstep, don't settle for a typical organized tour in conventional areas. You might as well seek or offer your own local tour twists and make the best of your experience.

*In the Keep Walking Project, Johnnie Walker presented three paths to help inspire a more positive future.

Tue Aug 07, 2012 5:57 pm View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
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