No joy for Beirut hotels this Christmas

Movenpick said occupancy rates have fallen from last year.

BEIRUT: Most of the hotels in the Lebanese capital report slow reservations only a few weeks before Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

A sample of hotels in Beirut contacted by The Daily Star all said they were operating at very low occupancy well into December, which they noted usually sees business soar to near full-occupancy levels.

“We have no confirmed reservations. We are only receiving last-minute reservations and no guaranteed ones,” a reservation officer at Markazia Monroe Suites told The Daily Star.

As with most of Beirut hotels, the officer said occupancy is not exceeding 30 percent, a mediocre rate compared to previous years.

Asked whether the hotel had been receiving tourists, the officer said most of their guests were people on business trips staying for just a few nights.

Movenpick, a leading five-star Beirut hotel, said occupancy rates had fallen from last year but declined to give exact figures.

A marketing representative also told The Daily Star most bookings were happening at the last-minute, with many guests declining to make confirmed bookings with credit card numbers.

But some hotels reported better occupancy rates.

A spokesperson for of the Gefinor Rotana, Raouché Arjaan, Tamar Rotana hotels in Beirut said the average occupancy at the three premises so far in December stood at 60 percent.

However, the spokesperson added that the hotel’s management expected the rates to only see a marginal increase during the holidays, in the last week of December.

At Beverly Residence Hotel, a 45-room hotel in Hamra, the situation is far from optimal.

“We have not received any reservations for the holidays. Those staying are on treatment trips [given the close location to the American University Hospital,” the reservation desk staff told The Daily Star by telephone.

Out of the 46 rooms, no more than 10 are currently occupied. In the past, the officer said, December had usually been one of the busiest times of the year.

At the Beirut Golden Plaza Hotel, an officer reported very low occupancy for the holiday season, adding that only 30 to 40 percent of rooms were currently occupied.

Lebanon’s tourism sector saw a marked decline in 2012 after most Gulf Cooperation Council states issued travel warnings effectively banning their citizens from visiting the country.

This, in addition to the Syrian conflict, which made land routes to Lebanon inaccessible to GCC and Jordanian tourists, has resulted in a 16 percent decline in the number of tourists coming to the country in the first 10 months of the year.

A drop in the number of visitors from Arab countries exceeded 45 percent, compared to the first 10 months of 2010.

Despite the delcine, Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud has voiced optimism for the upcoming holidays. He said most flights to Beirut during Christmas and New Year’s Eve had already been fully booked.

Abboud did admit, however, that the situation in the region had been weighing heavily on the sector. “But the situation in Egypt, Cyprus and Greece [is not any better] and we have to remain positive to pass through this difficult stage,” he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 08, 2012, on page 4.




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