The Lebanese economy could certainly use some fresh dollars from vacationing expats and tourists. This is why today, the Lebanese government is hanging its hopes on the airport’s reopening.
While summertime Lebanon had always been a major attraction for people from all over the world, this doesn’t seem to be the case this time around.
To begin with, the Beirut-Rafik Hariri International Airport is, as of the time of writing, operating at 10% of its capacity this time last year due to coronavirus (COVID-19).
Since it reopened on Wednesday, the airport has only been allowing a daily total of around 2,000 entries, only a fraction of which are tourists. So, for one thing, the numbers are definitely not on Lebanon’s side this year.
Airport capacity aside, Secretary-General of the Federation of Tourism & Hotel Associations in Lebanon Jean Beiruti recently made a concerning comment about the current tourism season.
Beiruti told El-Nashra, “Nothing so far, promises, even the presence of a tourism season, especially since the political atmosphere, is tense and, if we want to attract tourists, the atmosphere must be calm.”
In addition to the political instability, Beiruti blames the ticket prices, which he deemed “very high,” for discouraging potential tourists from coming to Lebanon.
The prices have been raised by airline companies for reasons related to the pandemic, such as the mandatory PCR tests and the insurance policy that travelers are subject to.
Furthermore, the fact that half of the country’s hotels are completely out of service, while the rest is only partly open, contributes to the problem.
President of the Hotel Owners Association Pierre Achkar even said that, as of Thursday, no hotel reservations have been made.
Achkar also blamed the political atmosphere, emphasizing that the lack of trust on the tourists’ side stops them from choosing Lebanon as a vacation destination.
To sum it up, in comparison to the tourism sector’s performance last year, which Achkar said was “poor,” the sector has “retreated significantly” this year.
Needless to say, this implies that the treasury will not be as replenished by the end of Summer as officials hope. Still, considering the airport has only been open for a couple of days, hoping for the best won’t hurt.