BEIRUT: Lebanon’s tourism minister said the upcoming Eid al-Adha holiday would see a slight improvement in the number of visitors to the country, but a leading hotelier maintained that the lack of GCC visitors remains a major setback for the sector.
“We are expecting tourists from the Gulf Cooperation Council during the Adha holidays. The situation in Lebanon is reassuring, and there is no reason for worry,” Minister Fadi Abboud told the Kuwaiti News Agency Thursday.
Pierre Achkar, head of Lebanon’s Hotel Owners Association which collects occupancy figures, told The Daily Star that occupancy would temporarily rise to 60 percent during the holiday.
“This is an improvement. But we are still way behind levels achieved in past years when Beirut hotels would be fully booked for the Eid,” he said.
Moreover, Achkar said hotels have cut their room charges by up to 50 percent to lure visitors, slashing their revenues even further.
Achkar said that travel bans issued by several GCC countries are still being robustly enforced.
“This is continuing to be an effective travel ban on Lebanon,” he said.
Following the ban, issued in August, hotels have been running on low occupancy rates not exceeding 40 percent at best, such as when business meetings and conferences take place in Beirut, according to Achkar.
However, the situation outside the capital has been disastrous, with hotels barely receiving any visitors, the minister added.
GCC tourists, explained Achkar, represented up to 45 percent of total visitors before the travel warnings were issued. Spending by the wealthy Gulf tourists was responsible for over 60 percent of the sector’s revenues in the past few years, he explained.