Tourism Ministry: Lebanon Still in Ruins

The Lebanese government and the private sector are offering conflicting views on the state of the tourism sector.  Surprisingly, it is the private sector that is being more pessimistic.  Lebanon’s Ministry of Tourism countered a statement by the hotel owners’ syndicate saying that the appointment of Tammam Salam as interim prime minister had caused some recovery in the extremely troubled industry.

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The Lebanese tourism sector has been in a downward spiral since the outbreak of war in Syria, which has spilled over into Lebanon, bringing gun violence in Tripoli, kidnappings, and retaliatory kidnappings.  In addition to the naturally dampening effect of the insecurity, the situation worsened dramatically after the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) decided to ban their citizens, the primary source of tourists, from visiting.

Nevertheless, economic analysts became more optimistic after Tammam Salam was universally acclaimed interim prime minister following the resignation of Najib Mikati.  This enthusiasm was reflected in the tourism sector when Pierre Achkar, head of the Hotel Owners Association, told The Daily Star newspaper that it had caused hotel occupancy to rise and the GCC to relax their restrictions.

“The hotel business is like a stock market.  When the political situation improves like what happened upon the appointment of Salam, you automatically see an improvement in the occupancy rates and the whole tourism industry,” Achkar said.  He indication that hotel occupancy rates for the month had climbed to over 60%, peaking briefly at 82%.

However, the Tourism Ministry was quick to counter the statement, saying that it “is keen to explain that the remarks made by Achkar to The Daily Star (April 25) that hotel room occupancy reached 82 percent since the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Mikati are not accurate.”

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