Lebanon's hotels suffer holiday slump

Published January 4th, 2016 - 07:09 GMT

Despite the relatively stable security situation, most Beirut hotels were incapable of achieving full occupancy for New Year.

Occupancy in Beirut hotels stands at around 70 percent for the New Year while it reaches 70 percent to 80 percent in areas outside the capital,” Jean Beyrouthy, head of the Federation of Touristic Syndicates, told The Daily Star. “However, mountain hotels saw a drop in business due to the absence of snow,” he added.

Beyrouthy attributed lower than expected reservations at Beirut hotels to the bad image broadcast by the media about trash crisis and the political events in general despite the relatively stable security situation.

“We have previously asked local satellite channels to stop broadcasting bad news about Lebanon in a bid to be able to attract tourists to the country,” he said.

“However, they never responded to our requests.”

Beyrouthy said that Lebanon could have attracted lots of tourists this year because of its relatively stable security situation compared to the region.

He said that only a few hotels managed to reach full occupancy this year, either because they have their own clients or because of their special locations.

Le Gray Hotel, for instance, was able to book all its rooms for the two days that precede New Year’s Eve and the one day after.

“We are fully booked for three nights during New Year Holiday and we are selling at high rates,” said Hilal Saade, director of sales and marketing at Le Gray in Downtown.

Saade said that most of the reservations this year came from Europeans, Kuwaitis and Indians.

“We are trying to penetrate the Indian market in a bid to make up for the loss of tourists from the Gulf,” he said. “Indians have a very good financial capability and it would be interesting to invite them to the country.”

Saade added that his hotel is also hosting a party which costs $390 per person and it is already fully reserved.

Likewise, Maysa Jouneh, director of sales at Riviera Hotel, reported a full occupancy at her hotel from Dec. 28 till Jan. 1. But she added that Riviera booked its rooms at low rates in a bid to reach full occupancy.

“We had to cut our rates for us to attract clients and I believe that all hotels have done this for this New Year season,” she said.

Jouneh said that most of her clients come from Iraq, Egypt and Syria while Europeans are totally absent during this festive season.

She added that she received some reservations from Lebanese living in mountain areas and willing to attend the hotel’s party and sleep for the night. “But we did not receive any requests from Lebanese expats.”

Other hotels interviewed by The Daily Star said they were incapable of booking all their rooms for New Year even though they made sure to cut their prices this year.

“We are [booking] at $100 this year while we used to [book] at a higher price two years ago,” said Ayman Nasreddine, sales and marketing manager at Le Cavalier Hotel, a four-star hotel in Hamra. “And yet we were only able to sell 90 percent of our rooms for Thursday night.”

“A few years ago, I was able to achieve 100 percent occupancy from Dec. 28 to Jan. 3 but this is not the case anymore,” he told The Daily Star.

Nasreddine reported a great demand from Iraqis, Egyptians and Syrians while Europeans and Lebanese expats are absent this year.

Nasreddine believes that many of his Lebanese expats clients who used to visit from Saudi Arabia did not come because their income dropped following the Saudi government’s spending cuts on projects due to its huge budget deficit created by low oil prices.

“Lebanese expats surely felt the impact of Saudi’s latest measures.”

Nasreddine believes that the five-star hotels that are booking all their rooms for New Year have their own clients. “Clients who come to Lebanon for this festive season to watch any of the Lebanese artists at $500 and above are surely capable of staying at five-star hotels for a few days,” he said.

Echoing Nasreddine, Wassim Msharrafieh, manager at White House Suites, reported an occupancy rate of 80 percent saying that White House Suites used to be fully booked for New Year. “Our occupancy is not full for the New Year even though we did not increase our prices like we used to do in previous years.”

All hotels interviewed by The Daily Star said that they expect January to witness some corporate reservations. “We mostly depend on corporate demand outside the festive seasons to be able to survive,” Jouneh said.

Likewise, Saade said Le Gray received reservation requests from NGOs for the month of January.

By Dana Halawi


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