Lebanon tourism chiefs urge national unity to help boost holiday season income

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A Lebanese tourism chief has called on the country’s political and security leaders to work together in helping create the conditions for a bumper summer season.

Pierre Al-Ashkar, head of the Federation of Tourist Syndicates in Lebanon urged authorities to ease restrictions on movement wherever possible to encourage visitors.

Tourism officials fear security risks and political tensions in Lebanon could discourage holidaymakers.

With the national economy in meltdown, an influx of tourists would provide struggling businesses with a welcome cash injection.

“This season offers a breathing space for Lebanon and the Lebanese to support the tourism sector and all economic sectors, as well as families and young Lebanese.

“Last month’s kidnapping of the administrative employee Mashari Al-Mutairi at the Saudi Embassy, did not have any repercussions on the tourist season, as security forces freed the kidnap victim at a record speed,” Al-Ashkar said.

Internal security forces announced on Thursday that a Syrian, thought to be the head of a gang suspected of being involved in ransom kidnappings, had been arrested.

And on Friday, Lebanon’s caretaker foreign minister, Abdallah Bou Habib, said: “The UAE has lifted the visa ban on Lebanese nationals after a temporary suspension was attributed to security concerns according to an Emirati official.”

Al-Ashkar noted that Lebanese hotel occupancy rates for this year’s summer season were expected to be similar to 2022, running at between 60 percent and 80 percent.

Restoration work has been carried out on several waterfront hotels damaged in the devastating 2020 Beirut port explosion.

And in a bid to encourage more visitors some Lebanese youth have been posting videos on social media platforms highlighting beauty spots, markets, restaurants, and sporting events.

Tony Ramy, head of the Syndicate of Owners of Restaurants, Cafes, Nightclubs, and Pastries in Lebanon, said: “Downtown Beirut is about to witness the opening of large nightclubs between June 20 and July 1. A huge number of foreign visitors are expected, including Arab tourists and Lebanese expatriates.”

A series of concerts and street festivals are planned with “demand for partying high,” Ramy added.

Head of the Association of Travel and Tourist Agents in Lebanon, Jean Abboud, said: “We have work to do this summer considering that Lebanon is a tourism country rather than a space for tensions and disagreements.

“Reservations on foreign flights arriving in Lebanon have reached 90 percent. We expect that this percentage will increase to reach 100 percent in July and August, and that the number of flights will also increase following the demand to visit Lebanon.

“The number of Arab tourists exceeded 35 percent of the total tourists’ number, including Iraqis, Jordanians, Saudis, Emiratis, and some Egyptians. This shows that tourism revenues are about to increase.

“The daily number of incoming tourists is expected to be around 12,000 visitors. As of early July, we expect this number to reach 15,000 tourists,” Abboud added.

The committees of the Beiteddine and Baalbek international festivals will be staging concert programs at both sites during July and August. Attractions will include jazz, pop, and rock music, oriental, folklore, and soprano singers, a range of dance performances, plus the musical “Chicago.”

Baalbek – Hermel Gov. Bashir Khedr called for the removal of politically motivated ads on billboards on key highways used by visitors.

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