Record number of cancellation to Lebanon
Current political turmoil and security developments in Lebanon have forced many UAE-based expatriates to cancel their summer bookings or put them off till the situation stabilises in Beirut.
Amidst fears of the Syrian revolts and military clashes from spilling over to Lebanon and recent travel advisories that were issued by some Gulf countries warning their citizens against travelling to Lebanon, many vacationers have cancelled their bookings and/or kept them pending until the picture gets clearer.
Gulf News spoke to a cross-section of Lebanese citizens who have either cancelled their bookings or postponed their travel plans till Ramadan.
Advocate Diana Hamada, Lebanese married to an Emirati, said she and her family always have Lebanon as part of their annual vacation. “We cancelled our reservations two weeks ago following the government’s travel advisory... we waited for two days and then cancelled. We may think about going later in the summer awaiting the political and security situation to settle. Until we have a clearer picture we won’t reconsider our decision. Mainly it’s the Syrian situation and the authorities’ warning that made us cancel,” she said.
Diana added that many of her Emirati friends, who had plans to spend their summer vacations in Beirut, also cancelled their bookings immediately following the advisory.
Lebanese Amine Hussain, an advertisement manager, said he cancelled his summer vacation because the situation is unstable and insecure.
“We reserved to fly in early August but since the security turmoil started last month, I decided not to risk and cancelled my family’s reservations 15 days ago. I am not willing to reconsider our summer plans and will stay in Dubai this summer... hence we might fly to Beirut by Adha feast if things settle down,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kamal Mohammad, manager of Dubai-based travel agency Dan Travel, said the main reason behind cancellations has been the travel advisory issued by a number of Gulf foreign ministries warning their citizens not to travel to Lebanon due to the current political and security instability. “Another reason was rumours spread by people that Qataris and Jordanians advised their citizens not to visit Lebanon. There are plenty of Lebanese who have already and still are travelling to Lebanon. Others have kept their reservations pending until the situation improves or for other individualc reasons. Many have travelled because they’re used to such temporary instability,” Mohammad told Gulf News. He said they did not have much of cancelations so far, and until today flights remained overbooked or hundreds of bookings are pending, which means travellers are reluctant to go there.
“Overall situation highlights that daily flights remain fully booked and unaffected right till this minute, however late night or early morning flights have been proportionally affected. Ramadan is another reason that has influenced summer plans. For instance, Middle East Airlines increased their daily flights to three to meet the summer rush, unlike Emirates Airlines and Fly Dubai that kept the same number of flight availability... this is compared to last year,” concluded Mohammad. However, teacher Ahmad Aladdine said he and his family are heading to Beirut on July 6.
“I made reservations last month but I am a bit hesitant to go this summer due to the situation. If things escalate, I will cancel my trip to Lebanon and go with my family to Turkey instead. Everybody I speak to in Beirut says the situation is ordinary although the country is empty of tourists unlike the last few years. Travel advisories were the main reason behind the cancellations of bookings to Lebanon.”
Ranya M., who works in the media industry, said she still has plans to go spend her summer vacation with her family and friends but not before early August.
“Honestly, we [Lebanese] are used to such situations. Obviously things have already started settling down... but what a great loss and setback for the tourism industry. I haven’t cancelled my reservation but I’ve kept it pending to see how the situation develops. I have made a tentative booking for August 7. Actually, I have too many friends, Emiratis and Arabs, who were planning to spend their holidays in Beirut... but unfortunately they’ve cancelled due to the situation,” added Ranya.
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