Lebanon had high hopes for tourism in the holiday seasons, which would have given a much-needed boost to its withering economy. However, today’s numbers tell a different story.
The tourism sector had bet on the massive devaluation of the Lebanese pound against the U.S. dollar as a likely motivator for dollar-carrying tourists to visit Lebanon and take advantage of the lowered prices.
Instead, Lebanon recorded its lowest number of inbound tourists during the holidays in years.
One of the reasons attributed to this was the Lebanese government’s late decision to reopen the country and extend the opening hours of restaurants, clubs, and other institutions in the tourism sector.
This delay “has negatively affected the activity of tourists and expatriates,” and deprived Lebanon of fresh dollars, Secretary-General of the Tourism and Trade Unions Federation Jean Beiruti told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Overall, the percentage of inbound expatriates and tourists this year declined by a whopping 70% compared to last year, which itself wasn’t good, the head of the Union of Travel and Tourism Companies in Lebanon, Jean Abboud, told the same source.
In the holiday season, Beirut airport is used to receiving around 13,000 passengers a day. This year, though, the number is at a mere 3,500.
Similarly, hotels have been almost empty this year, as occupancy rates for hotels in Beirut have not exceeded 5%, according to Abboud.
Needless to say, this percentage is unusual for Lebanon, where hotel operations, not to mention general tourist activity, are normally very high in December particularly.