Lebanon plans to boost tourism ties with Dubai |
Khaleej Times - 20 June, 2012
Escalating civil war in Syria has negatively impacted inbound tourism in Lebanon, particularly tourist arrivals by road, but the country’s tourism minister said on Tuesday that he was optimistic to sustain revenues at $ 7 billion in 2012, at the same level as last year.
The Lebanese minister Fadi Abboud, who was in Dubai to bolster cooperation with the emirate’s tourism promotion board, DTCM, said Lebanon has launched a major promotion drive and awareness campaign in Arab and Western countries to prop up a key industry that accounts for 20 per cent of the war-torn country’s gross domestic product.
The minister said the campaign is aimed at diversifying tourist client base and to attract investments into the sector.
“We are looking at South America, which holds immense potential given the huge population of Lebanese-origin people living there. At least eight million people of Lebanese origin are living in Brazil alone. With Emirates airline flying directly to most of those South American destinations, we hope to tap this potential market,” he said.
“We have set in motion a master plan that seeks to attract three million tourists by 2015,” he told journalists.
In 2011, tourist traffic to Lebanon suffered a major setback in the wake of Arab Spring, dropping to 1.6 million visitors from 2.2 million in the previous year that recorded $ 8 billion in revenues. This year, in the first five months, the country, which borders strife-torn Syria, recorded a six per cent drop in arrivals at 500,000 visitors.
“We have seen a significant drop in the number of overland tourists arriving through Syria this year although cross border visits by Syrian nationals, who are not counted as tourists, have dramatically risen,” Abboud told Khaleej Times. He estimated that Lebanon has suffered a drop of 300,000 tourist arrivals by road this year alone due to Syrian unrest. He said the country’s improving investment climate offers lot of opportunities to foreign investors in the tourism sector.
Abboud said he would expect 1.8 million visitors this year, almost similar to last year. “Although, we lost more than 300,000 overland visitors, air and sea travel are steady.”
The Mediterranean country, a top hotspot for GCC visitors, suffered a setback in the wake of a travel ban imposed by some countries following the outbreak of clashes between supporters and opponents of Syrian civil strife.
Lebanese President Michel Suleiman has visited the Gulf to encourage countries that posted travel warnings to revoke them.
In May, the UAE and Qatar called for their citizens in Lebanon to return home and advised others not to go as clashes between pro- and anti-Syrian groups erupted in the Lebanese port city of Tripoli.
The minister said Lebanon, boasting one of the highest per capita tourism spending in the world at $ 4,000, employs 250,000 people in the sector.
He said already he was seeing some positive signs of a revival with hotels in Beirut recording 79 per cent occupancy.
The World Travel and Tourism Council, or WTTC, estimates that Lebanon’s tourism industry will contribute $ 4.3 billion to the country’s economy in 2012, equivalent to around 10 per cent of the GDP, an estimate 50 per cent lower than the projection given by the tourism minister.
Since tourism touches all sectors of Lebanese economy, its real direct and indirect impact is even greater. WTTC forecasts tourism will generate $ 15.5 billion, or 35.5 per cent, of overall economic activity in Lebanon in 2012, including 461,000 jobs representing 33.8 per cent of total employment in 2012.
The WTTC expects Lebanon to rank in 69th place globally in terms of the forecasted growth of the sector’s total and direct contribution to GDP in 2012, in 67th place in terms of the forecast growth rate of the sector’s total contribution to employment, and in 157th place in terms of the industry’s direct contribution to employment in 2012.
The global body projected the travel and tourism economy in Lebanon to grow by 3.2 per cent per year in real terms between 2012 and 2022, compared to 4.2 per cent in the Middle East and 4.1 per cent globally over the same period of time.
Lebanon ranks in 127th place worldwide in terms of the sector’s annualised growth rate over the 2012-22 period and in 135th place in terms of the expected growth of the sector’s direct contribution to GDP over the coming 10 years.