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Lebanon’s tourism suffers from lack of gulf visitors

BEIRUT, June 12 (Xinhua) — Tourism activity is low in Lebanese capital Beirut due to the absence of Gulf visitors, said Pierre Ashkar, president of the Syndicate of Hotel Owners in Lebanon Tuesday.

Ashkar added that only 10 percent increase from the prior year is witnessed in hotel reservations for the coming three-day holiday Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan, Muslim’s holy month of fasting.

Last November, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait warned their citizens against traveling to Lebanon due to a Lebanese-Saudi crisis caused by Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s controversial resignation in Riyadh which he rescinded soon after.

Ashkar said that tourism activity will improve only when tourists from the Gulf return to Lebanon.

“Gulf tourists used to make up 60 percent of total visitors to Lebanon,” he said. “Now they constitute 4 percent only.”

Ashkar noted that Gulf tourists are the ones who spend money the most in Lebanon compared to other nationalities. “They also stay for long periods unlike tourists with other nationalities who come for only two or three days,” he added.

Ashkar added that Gulf tourists’ return to Lebanon depends on the country’s government formation.

Lebanon succeeded in holding the first parliamentary elections in nine years but it still faces the challenge of overcoming all hurdles that may hinder cabinet formation.

“Gulf authorities will assess the situation following the government formation to decide whether to allow their nationals to visit Lebanon or not,” he said.

Representatives of hotels also told Xinhua that demand from Gulf nationals for Beirut’s hotels is very shy and the tourism activity is low for Eid al-Fitr.

“Reservations at Beirut’s big hotels do not surpass 70 percent for this period,” said Ayman Nasser el-Dine, operations manager at Beirut’s Hotel Cavalier.

Nasser el-Dine said his hotel did not witness any increase in demand for this year’s Eid al-Fitr compared to the same period last year.

He noted that Gulf tourists are absent. “Gulf tourists prefer to come to Lebanon by land using their cars but the Syrian conflict prevents them from doing so nowadays,” he said.

“In my opinion, most of these people prefer to go to Turkey for vacation instead of coming to Lebanon for the time being,” he added.

Nasser El Dine said that reservations at his hotel for Eid al-Fitr this year is made by Syrians mostly, and Europeans.

Likewise, Rita Saad, director of marketing at Le Grey hotel, said most of the demand at her hotel comes from Europeans.

A recent study by Lebanon’s Blominvest Bank stated that the total number of tourists in Lebanon rose by 5 percent in the first quarter of 2018 compared to the same period last year.

The increase, it said, is due to the yearly growths recorded in tourist arrivals from Europe and America which together comprised 49.56 percent.

Saad said that demand for rooms at le Grey for Eid al-Fitr stands at 87 percent this year, which is slightly higher than last year due to positive vibes stemmed from parliamentary elections.

“We have some demand by Kuwaitis and Emiratis but not Saudis,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mohamad Faraj, operations manager at White House furnished apartment for tourists, reported a very low reservations rate of 10 percent.

“The small demand we have is by Iraqis who come for medical purposes but we have not seen any people from the Gulf since 2007,” he said.

Source: Xinhua

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