The holiday season is here. It is the season when the diaspora comes back to Lebanon to celebrate with their families. It is the season that everyone loves, no school, no work, and usually lots of celebrations, gifts, and food (in normal times).
This year is unlike all the other previous years though. Lebanon's revolution is still ongoing because the political elite refuses to heed the people. On top of that, you can find the flooding crisis, the garbage crisis, and of course the financial crisis.
The financial and economic crisis this year reflected negatively on the tourism sector, which has been struggling already for years now. This year, its suffering has grown.
This year, Lebanon seems short on happiness, especially with violence erupting in the streets of different cities in the past few days. According to Asharq Al-Awsat's source, several airlines have reduced the number of flights in and out of Lebanon due to cancellations.
Rafic Hariri International Airport registered a year-on-year drop of 30 percent while imports through air transport were down 45 percent, according to National News Agency.
The drop of import is due to the increase of the US dollar exchange rate and the restrictions banks have imposed on withdrawals of people's money, resulting in crippling the ability to purchase and import.
Sources at the Hariri International Airport are not very optimistic about the situation, especially that there are no solutions in sight on the political and economic fronts.
Even the tourism companies that work extra hard during this season are particularly timid. Many Lebanese in Lebanon can't simply afford to provide for their families, let alone to travel for the holidays.
Besides, acquiring dollars in the markets to travel has become too expensive, and one can't expect now to exchange their LBP in foreign airports, considering the ridiculously painful exchange rates, like nowadays in Istanbul airport.
Christelle Majdalani, Sales Manager at Nakhal for Travel and Tourism, one of the largest travel companies in Lebanon, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Travel reservations for Christmas and New Year holidays outside the country have fallen to 10 percent, Lebanese prefer staying home because of the scarcity of liquidity, burdens of life and inflation.”
This crisis is also affecting shops, hotels, and restaurants as most of them prepare for the holiday months before. Owners of related businesses and their syndicates are extremely worried about the decline of the tourism sector during this season.
Wadih Kanaan, the Secretary-General of Hotel Owners' Syndicate, issued a call back in November "for the protection of the tourist community as it is a way to combat terrorism and sectarianism," according to him.
ان الدعوة الى حماية المجتمع السياحي هي عنصر من عناصر الدعوة الى مكافحة الإرهاب والطائفية والمذهبية— Wadih Kanaan (@WadihKanaan) November 27, 2019