LEBANON UPBEAT ABOUT 2022 SUMMER TOURIST SEASON
Lebanon’s Minister of Tourism, Walid Nassar, has revealed that the country is set for a strong summer thanks to an influx of travellers from Lebanese ex-pats as well as tourists planning to visit from neighbouring countries.
While Lebanon and its people brace for harsh times, authorities have revealed how a strong summer tourism season this year could help the country’s economy.
While soaring inflation is ravaging households with incomes in Lebanese pounds, an informal exchange rate makes prices attractive to most tourists as the Lebanese pound lost 90% of its value in just a few months.
“This summer is promising,” Tourism Minister Walid Nassar revealed in an interview with world media. “We expect around 1.2 million tourists and income of $3-3.5 billion during this summer season.”
Reservations show that three quarters of the arrivals this summer will be Lebanese nationals from the diaspora, explained Nassar. “The remaining 25% are foreigners hailing mostly from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Gulf countries,” he highlighted in the interview.
Prior to Covid, tourism used to generate around $8.72bn (€8.58bn) in international receipts making it a strong sector for the Lebanese economy. Back in 2019, the country welcomed some 1.94 million international arrivals. However, in 2020, tourist receipts declined to $2.37 billion, according to World Bank statistics.
Attracting the Lebanese diaspora and neighbouring travellers
The diaspora plays a major role in Lebanon’s tourism performance. However, the devastating Beirut port explosion in 2020, combined with shortages, unemployment and pandemic-linked restrictions discouraged many travellers from their traditional summer homecoming.
Lebanon is now keen to draw in tourists and their cash dollars. Despite difficulties, the tourism ministry launched a large PR campaign to promote the country as a holiday destination. The campaign is dubbed “Ahla Bha Talle,” in reference to a song by a well-known Lebanese singer. The country also reinstated art festivals in June. Next to the famous Baalbeck International Festival in early June, the Ministry launched a new Beirut Festival, which took place in the city centre and along the city waterfront. More initiatives are to be unveiled until the end of the summer season.
Another favourable element that is likely to attract visitors is the price of accommodation in Lebanon. Average hotel room prices felt from US$200 in 2019 to somewhere between US$50 and US$60.
A good summer would then help Lebanon in its economic recovery. The country’s top political and security brokers “are aware of how important it is for this summer season to be a success”, Nassar added in the interview.