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Lebanese Minister to Asharq Al-Awsat: We Expect a Tourism Boom During Holidays

Lebanese Minister to Asharq Al-Awsat: We Expect a Tourism Boom During Holidays

Friday, 14 December, 2018 - 08:00
A Christmas tree in downtown Beirut. AP photo
Beirut - Paula Astih
Lebanon is expected to witness a promising tourism season during the holidays despite a political deadlock caused by a delay in the formation of a new government and an Israeli operation against Hezbollah cross-border tunnels.

Caretaker Tourism Minister Avedis Guidanian said hotel bookings were excellent. However, there were some cancellations due to developments at the southern border.

Ten days ago, Israel launched an operation to destroy what it says are a series of cross-border attack tunnels built by Hezbollah.

Along with the security fears, Lebanon has been without a government since May as rival parties quarrel over shares and are unable to reach an agreement on the distribution of portfolios.

“Around 1.8 million tourists entered Lebanon this year,” Guidanian told Asharq Al-Awsat, saying the number is expected to reach 2 million by the end of December.

“Europeans constitute the largest number of tourists, followed by Americans, Canadians, Brazilians and then Arabs from Iraq, Egypt and Gulf states,” the Minister explained.

He expected a large number of tourists from Jordan to arrive in Lebanon after the Nassib crossing between Jordan and Syria was reopened in October.

Guidanian said that according to the World Tourism Organization, the level of worldwide growth in this sector varies between 5 and 6 percent.

“In 2011, we reached an 11 percent growth. This year, we have a 6 percent growth,” he stated.

According to numbers provided by the Tourism Ministry, $7.6 million were spent on the tourism sector in 2017 compared to $8 million in 2010, when the majority of tourists were from Arab and Gulf states.

The Secretary-General of the Hotel Owners' Association in Lebanon Wadih Kanaan predicted a promising winter.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat that hotel bookings in Beirut have already reached 80 percent.

“If next month witness intense snowfall, then we assume that hotels located near ski slopes would be almost fully booked,” Kanaan said.

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