Tourists in Lebanon shrug off security concerns

Author: NAJIA HOUSSARIWed, 2017-09-06 03:00ID: 1504645907127309100BEIRUT: Young Iraqis Mustafa, Mohammed and Yasser are spending Eid Al-Adha in Beirut.
“Spending the holidays in the Lebanese capital has become an annual habit,” said Yasser as they sat in a new cafe sipping coffee, chatting and watching passers-by.
He has not heard about the fighting in eastern Lebanon between the army and Daesh, and does not care.
Mohammed said: “We’re coming from Iraq, the land of unending wars. Do you think that clashes three hours away from here by car would intimidate us?” Mohammed added.
Mustafa added: “We’re in Beirut because we love it. Nothing will change our love for it. Everything in it is beautiful. Our hearts have died. We come here to recharge our souls.”
In another cafe, a Saudi, sitting with his young daughter while his wife was shopping nearby, said he came to Beirut for Eid Al-Adha.
“The security situation is different than what’s reported in the media. There’s security and comfort here,” he added.
“We’ve spent beautiful days in various places. We don’t care about the news about clashes in the barrens, or problems in this or that area.”
At the start of summer, Lebanon’s Tourism Minister Avedis Guidanian said he expected an “improvement in the tourist situation,” which “would be better than in the past five years.”
He added that “reservations for Eid Al-Fitr were close to 90 percent in Beirut and 60 percent outside the capital,” and that the situation would keep improving until the end of the year.
Jean Abboud, president of the Association of Travel and Tourist Agents in Lebanon, said the number of tourists in Lebanon is “quite acceptable” but the industry is still vulnerable.
According to Ernst & Young, bookings at Beirut hotels rose to 45.3 percent in June.
The chairman of the Hotel Owners Association in Lebanon, Pierre Al-Ashkar, said: “Reservations during Eid Al-Adha, June and July rose to 50 percent.”
The majority of tourists are Lebanese expats, followed by Syrians, Jordanians and Iraqis, he added.
But tourism from Gulf countries is still affected by travel bans by the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait.
Al-Ashkar played down the effects on tourism of military operations in the Lebanese barrens, but said: “We had 335,000 tourists in 2010. We’re still very far from that figure now.”
He added that he expects vacation tourism to fall back now due to the start of the school year in Europe and the Arab world, but this will not affect business tourism.
Main category: Middle-EastTags: LebanonBeirutIraqSyriarelated_nodes: Lebanon looks on as Israel starts giant military drillLebanon says it has arrested Daesh commanderDaesh fighters surrender Lebanon-Syria border enclave

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