Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

Lebanon tries to meet the challenge of a good summer tourist season

Written by Frédéric Dubessy on Thursday, July 28th 2022 à 15:55 | Read 540 times

Lebanon has many tourist assets. Here the Sidon Castle, built by the Crusaders, in Saida (photo: Lebanese Ministry of Tourism)
Lebanon has many tourist assets. Here the Sidon Castle, built by the Crusaders, in Saida (photo: Lebanese Ministry of Tourism)
LEBANON. "Despite the political tensions, stability is still very much present... Infrastructure is available in many cities, which attracts inbound tourism," says Walid Nassar. In an interview granted to the American television channel in Arabic, Alhurra TV, the Lebanese Minister of Tourism is confident. He expects tourism revenues of around $3.5bn (€3.3bn) during the summer season.

At the end of June 2022, he was already talking about a figure between 3 and 3.5 billion dollars, speaking of "a promising summer".

According to official statistics, in the first six months of 2019, 923,820 tourists visited Lebanon and only 199,700 in the same period in 2020.

More than 4 million tourists visited the country in the first nine months of the year before the pandemic. This number should not, according to Walid Nassar, exceed 1.2 million from the beginning of the year to the end of September 2022. And even then, provided that his forecasts prove to be correct.

A favourable exchange rate for foreign tourists

In November 2021, Lebanon launched a promotional campaign featuring a controversial new slogan: "We love you in your madness", taken from a song by the Lebanese star Fayrouz.

At the outset, Walid Kanaan, creative director of the TBWA agency, emphatically justified the tagline: "This is our country, a crazy country... crazy in its nightlife, crazy in its gastronomy and generosity. And no matter how crazy the situation in Lebanon is, we can only say "we love you in your craziness"". At the time, Najib Nikati, the Lebanese Prime Minister, did not hesitate to make a dig. "If ministers allow 'we love you in your madness' - Lebanon is not mad... perhaps it is the way it has been managed that has led to this," he commented.

For two years now, the country of the Cedars has been living in a state of permanent socio-political-economic crisis. This situation is not conducive to attracting tourists. Their currency is essential to fill the empty coffers of a country that has been in default since March 2020 and whose national currency has lost 91.96% of its value against the dollar compared to 2020. The good news is that this exchange rate is largely favourable to foreign tourists.

"Tourism institutions are not making any profit"

The much-coveted tourism revenues now account for some 10% of GDP compared to nearly 25% ($8.6bn in 2019) before the health crisis. Several hotels have closed, notably in Beirut. "But more than 120 guest houses have opened across the country and the prices of tourist services are competitive" compared to neighbouring countries, Walid Nassar reassures.

"The biggest challenges facing inbound tourism in the country are the lack of electricity, which forces utilities to buy fuel for generators at high prices... tourism institutions are currently not making any profit," he admits however.

According to the Lebanese minister, "tourists know the reality of Lebanon, yet they continue to visit the country." 334,000 were welcomed in June 2022 and 220,000 in May 2022. This contingent is made up of "75% of Lebanese from the diaspora", he explains, relying on the reservations already recorded. The latter are making their return after having shunned the destination the two previous summers.

"The others are foreigners coming mainly from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and the Gulf countries," Walid Nassar continues.


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