In the first half of 2019, tourist arrivals to Lebanon were more than 900,000. In the same period in 2020, the number fell sharply, dealing a massive blow to one of the country’s most vital sectors.
According to the latest Tourism Ministry statistics, a mere 199,722 tourists entered Lebanon in the first half of 2020. The number was 923,820 in the same period last year that had noted an increase of 8.3% compared to the year prior.
The lowest number of monthly inbound tourists dropped to an all-time low in March 2020.
This drop was attributed to the closure of Beirut-Rafik Hariri International Airport during the lockdown that Lebanese authorities declared at the time.
Throughout the first 10 months of the current year, the airport recorded almost 2 million passengers in total. In comparison, 7.7 million passengers were recorded during the same period of 2019.
But the pandemic is not the only reason for the fast deterioration of the tourism sector in Lebanon.
The economic crisis has paralyzed much of the country and debilitated the sector’s businesses. The disaster was amplified by COVID-19 and the lockdown measures that it has brought. As a result, many of the industry’s businesses were forced to close down.
The August 4th Beirut explosion also impacted the sector, on which Lebanon relies annually for its significant contribution to the economy.
Expectedly, tourism receipts in the first quarter of 2020 (slightly over $1 billion) were the lowest since the first quarter of 2005 ($1 billion), according to central bank data.