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Lebanon’s Tourism Thrives Despite Political, Economic Challenges

Abdul Rahman Yousef, a Jordanian coming to Lebanon this summer with his wife, said he was glad to visit the country because “the vibes were refreshing.”

“One can feel the happy atmosphere and buzz in public places,” said Yousef as he spread a towel on a beach chair at Jnah, a resort in Lebanon’s capital Beirut.

Yousef is one of the tens of thousands of foreign tourists who came to Lebanon for summer holidays this year. Despite the country’s lingering financial crisis and political instabilities, its tourism sector is thriving, industry insiders said.

People paraglide over the city of Jounieh, Lebanon, on Aug. 26, 2023. (Xinhua/Liu Zongya)

“Lebanon received 700,000 expatriates and tourists in August, up by 22 to 26 percent when compared with the same period of last year,” said Jean Abboud, head of the Syndicate of Tourism and Travel Agencies, adding the upward trend is expected to continue until mid-September.

“We expect the number of expatriates and tourists visiting Lebanon to reach around 2 million between June and September, with 35 percent of the tourists from Arab countries and 38 percent from the rest of the world,” he said.

Jean Beyrouthy, head of the Federation of Tourism Syndicates, said tourism institutions generally reaped 10 percent more profit than expected from mid-May to August.

On average, hotels registered an occupancy rate of 70 percent this summer, compared to about 50 percent last summer, said Pierre Ashkar, head of the Syndicate of Hotel Owners in Lebanon.

“More tourists flocked to areas with adventurous tourism activities such as biking, hiking, parasailing, and rafting, and hotels and guesthouses have noticed the increase,” he said.

Nassib Ghobril, an economist and head of the economic research department at Byblos Bank, said the performance of the tourism industry had a positive impact on the economy.

He predicted that the tourism sector’s revenues this year would reach 9 billion U.S. dollars, up from about 6.5 billion dollars last year.

A busker performs as tourists walk by in Byblos, Lebanon, July 29, 2023. (Xinhua/Liu Zongya)

“All players in the sector, including hotels, guesthouses, pubs, nightclubs, resorts, and car rentals, reported an exceptional season this year,” Ghobril told Xinhua.

Ghobril credited the tourism industry’s strong performance to the fact that travelers are drawn to Lebanon by its beautiful scenery and services, as well as its reasonable cost when compared to other countries, particularly those in Europe.

“Lebanon is an ideal destination for family tours because a wide range of activities is available to suit different tastes, whether in the mountains, beaches, restaurants, or nightclubs,” said Yousef’s wife Raghida.

A couple watch sunset on the beach in Beirut, Lebanon, Jan. 8, 2022. (Xinhua/Liu Zongya)

Alia Shawki, an Egyptian in her 30s, traveled to Lebanon with her friends this summer. When asked why she had chosen to visit Lebanon, she said that the prices here have become more affordable after the devaluation of the local currency.

According to Ghobril, the number of foreign visitors to the country increased by 32 percent in the first half of 2023 compared to the same period in 2022. He also predicted that the momentum of growth would continue in the second half of the year. 

Source : Xinhua