Lebanon: Industry officials call for reduced airfares to boost tourism

Published May 4th, 2016 - 11:00 GMT
Around 220,000 Jordanians used to come to Lebanon by land but stopped visiting the country when the borders closed following the war in Syria. (File photo)
Around 220,000 Jordanians used to come to Lebanon by land but stopped visiting the country when the borders closed following the war in Syria. (File photo)

Tourist arrivals from Jordan and Syria improved during the Easter season, but tourism activity is still low, said Pierre Ashkar, president of the Syndicate of Hotel Owners in Lebanon.

“We witnessed some improvement in the number of Christian Jordanian and Syrian tourists who came to spend Easter vacation in Lebanon but tourism activity is still below our expectations,” he said in a statement to the Central News Agency.

Likewise, Jean Beyrouti, head of the Touristic Federation, said that tourism from Syria and Jordan improved during the Easter season because Lebanon is the only country in the region with religious tourism activities.

But he called on the government to encourage the state-owned Middle East Airlines to slash the prices of tickets for tourists from Jordan to lure more people from this country to visit Lebanon.

“Around 220,000 Jordanians used to come to Lebanon by land but they have stopped visiting the country when the borders closed following the war in Syria,” he told The Daily Star.

“This is why we proposed a plan whereby the government slashes the prices of tickets to lure tourists from Jordan to come to Lebanon like they used to do before.”

Beyrouti said that Prime Minister Tammam Salam approved this proposal but no practical steps have been taken in this direction yet.

Beyrouti said that only 70,000 Jordanians come to Lebanon by plane for the time being. He said that tourism activity in the summer can only be improved if the political situation shows sign of recovery.

Ashkar said that it is still too early to make predictions on the tourism situation during summer, adding that tourism revenues can only improve with political stability.

“The tourism sector lost around 50 percent to 54 percent of its revenues following the political instability in the region and in Lebanon,” he told the CNA.

He said that most of the revenues in the tourism sector came from Gulf tourists who tend to stay in Lebanon for around 20 to 35 days.

“We do not know if there will be reservations by tourists from the Gulf but we will be able to tell starting mid-June,” he said.

Ashkar said that occupancy in four- and five-star hotels in Beirut reached 53 percent in the first quarter of 2016.

For comparison, Ernst & Young’s benchmark survey of the hotel sector in the Middle East indicated that the average occupancy rate at hotels in Beirut was 54 percent in the first quarter of 2015.


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