by Dana Halawi
BEIRUT, June 8 (Xinhua) -- Lebanese experts expect a thriving tourism season in the crisis-hit country this summer which will generate revenues in U.S. dollars and boost the weak economy.
Jean Beyrouthy, head of the Syndicate of Beach Resorts, told Xinhua that the syndicate estimates Lebanon's tourism revenues to stand at 4 billion U.S. dollars in 2022 based on the calculations of spending made by each tourist in Lebanon.
"The revenues cover spending in hotels, restaurants, airlines, taxis, shopping and other economic activities related to tourism in the country," Beyrouthy said.
He noted that tourism revenues this year will be equivalent to the 3.8 billion U.S. dollars of returns generated by the sector before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2018.
Lebanon has been going through an unprecedented financial crisis amid a shortage of U.S. dollars which led to the collapse of the local currency and the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, pushing the poverty rate upward.
Businesses in the tourism sector are hoping for a season that would compensate them for the losses incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic and amid the political and security instabilities following the explosions that rocked the Beirut port in 2020.
Lebanon's Tourism Minister Walid Nassar announced on Wednesday that the ministry expected the arrival of 10,000 to 12,000 Lebanese expatriates and tourists per day in June, and there would be around one million tourists visiting the country during the summer.
Pierre Ashkar, head of the Syndicate of Hotel Owners in Lebanon, told Xinhua that reservations in Lebanon's hotels for the summer season currently stand at around 40 percent but they are likely to increase to over 70 percent starting July.
Ashkar noted that 90 percent of arrivals in Lebanon this year are Lebanese expatriates who stay in their houses in Beirut but make reservations in hotels in the mountains, whereas most of the reservations in Beirut's hotels come from Egyptians, Jordanians, and Iraqis who prefer to stay in the capital city.
For his part, Ayman Nasreddine, the operations manager at Hotel Cavalier, a four-star hotel in Beirut's Hamra area, told Xinhua that most of the demands for rooms at his hotel come from Egyptians and Iraqis who now consider Lebanon an attractive tourist destination in light of the sharp depreciation of the local currency compared the U.S. dollar.
Nasreddine noted that room reservations at his hotel stand at 50 percent but it is expected to increase during July and the first 15 days of August.
Lebanese authorities have taken steps to attract tourists by adopting transparent pricing policies in hotels and restaurants, in addition to strengthening security measures to ensure a safe stay for tourists in the country.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Wednesday visited the Beirut airport and announced that he will work on deploying an additional 100 security forces to enhance security at the airport.
Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi announced during the tour that the security situation at the airport is in a good state and the government expects a promising summer season.
Meanwhile, the tourism minister issued a decree last Thursday, allowing touristic institutions to charge their menus in U.S. dollars to protect foreign customers from the daily fluctuation of the exchange rates, a move long-awaited by the tourism sector.
"This is a very good move as tourists will be able to have a clear idea about prices in U.S. dollars without having to experience a daily change in prices in Lebanese pound based on the fluctuation of the exchange rate in the black market," Beyrouthy said. ■