Lebanon to embrace 2 Million Visitors in 2009
Within this labored recovery, tourism forecasts had a history of being rather unreliable in Lebanon and expectations for massive growth in inbound tourism have been hyped repeatedly beyond what proved possible over the years.
Expectations of finally breaking the 2 million mark sometimes looked genuine such as in 2006 when 460,000 visitors were counted in the first five months. Then, however, hopes were smashed through the 2006 summer assault by Israel and in 2007 through conflicts in which the Lebanese army had to spend months battling a militia in Nahr al-Bared Palestinian camp.
In 2008, the first quarter of the year was promising with almost 200,000 visitors but a quarrel for political control pushed the numbers for the first five months below the 342,000 recorded in 2007.
Subsequently, the full-year result of 1.3 million tourists in 2008 was less than hospitality operators had wished for, and rates of 55 percent occupancy is still substantially below the Middle East averages of 69 percent.
One year after emergence of relative internal calm in May 2008, the longsuffering Lebanese tourism industry could now be at the start of a long and fruitful summer with potential to exceed last year’s tourism performance by half, say Lebanese tourism officials and a leading resort operator.
Nada Sardouk, director general at the ministry of tourism, sees the country on course to set a new record for annual visitors. Based on a count of 500,000 visitors by May, “I expect 2 million visitors by end of 2009. It will be a great year,” she told RPN on the sidelines of a press event ringing in one of the Lebanon’s summer festivals.
The official number for visitor arrivals in the first quarter of 2009 was just announced as a record 434,418, an increase by 56.79 percent from 277,054 in the same period of 2008.
Two million – Lebanon has never counted that many visitors in a single year, not even in the so-called golden years in the 1960 and early 70s. The country has for a long time looked to boost its tourism status to that of a worry-free center of savoir vivre for which the country was renowned decades ago – before the start of internal warfare in 1975 ruined this reputation.
The arduous climb back toward becoming a veritable niche market capturing regional holidaymakers and some segments of European outbound tourism has been beset by obstacles throughout the 1990s. Some seven summers ago, Lebanon showed signs of a tourism revival but the growth trend was disrupted brutally after 2004 delivered visitor numbers comparable to the 1.5 million held as record since 1975.
Filed under: Aggregated, Analysis, Lebanese Expatriates | 1 Comment
Tags: 2009, Tourism, tourists, visitors