Lebanon’s hotel industry had hoped for a boost from the recently held Asian Football Cup competition, but instead it recorded a net loss during the tournament, said Amin Khayyat, owner of the Howard Johnson Hotel in Hamra and the chairman of the tourism committee at the Economic and Social Council (ESC), which is a 72-member body that was created to advise the government on policy issues.
Speaking at a press conference, Khayyat blamed a 15,000 Lebanese pound ($10) per night per person surcharge for the situation, which he said was responsible for a 60 percent contraction of the hospitality industry during the month of October. Quoted by the Daily Star, Khayyat said that thousands of room bookings and numerous conferences were cancelled in October because of the surcharge, which was in effect throughout the month.
In 1999, the Lebanese government has agreed to a request by Mohammed Youssef Beydoun, the former sports minister, for the month-long surcharge and a 4,000 Lebanese pound stamp tax at the airport, in order to help finance the tournament, which took place from October 12 through October 29. Pierre Ashqar, the head of the Hotel Owners’ Association, had resigned in protest at the tax, which was also opposed by Arthur Nazarian, the former tourism minister.
Speaking at the press conference, Khayyat said that many hotels stand on the brink of bankruptcy and others have been repossessed by banks. He presented a list of demands to the new Lebanese government, which include exempting hotels from certain taxes, reducing electricity bills and social security contributions.
He also called for the cancellation of a five-percent hotel and restaurant tax, which was imposed when Lebanon’s new prime minister, Rafiq Hariri, earlier stood at the head of the Lebanese government. — (Albawaba-MEBG)