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Two more hotels close due to low tourism

Acropolis Hotel is one of the most recent victims of low tourism in Lebanon.

BEIRUT: Two four-star hotels have been recently closed in Kaslik, the head of the Hotels Association told The Daily Star Wednesday, warning that more closures were possible if poor tourism persisted.

Acropolis, a four-star hotel, has been shut down by its owners after suffering losses.

“The hotel had financial difficulties and I was informed by the owners that it has gone out of business,” Pierre Achkar said. He added that Century Park, a 70-room Kaslik hotel, also closed last month.

The two hotels were unavailable for comment with no employees responding to repeated calls.

Achkar reiterated that most hotels have been facing difficulties, with many forced to seal off floors and lay off employees to reduce operational costs after occupancy levels plummeted to less than 40 percent in Beirut and much lower in areas outside the capital.

Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud said he would hold a news conference Thursday to comment about the closure of the hotels.

Lebanon has suffered from low tourism throughout 2012. The most recent figures show the number of tourists declined by nearly 18 percent in the first 11 months of 2012, compared to 2011.

Last year had already seen a sharp a decline in tourism, meaning this year’s decline stands at more than 37 percent, if compared to 2010.

In November 2012, Beirut reported the lowest occupancy since May 2008 at 35.1 percent, Global STR, a monitor of hotel occupancy rates, said in its December report.

The news about hotel closures followed an announcement by leading United Arab Emirates investor Khalaf Al-Habtoor, who told Arabian Business that he was considering the sale of his hotels in Lebanon.

On the same day, the Tourism Ministry launched a 50-day campaign of travel packages and shopping discounts to attract tourists, particularly from the Gulf Cooperation Council states, where travel bans have dissuaded many from traveling to Lebanon.

The discount campaign would allow tourists to visit Lebanon for as low as $340 from some GCC destinations. Restaurants and retailers have pledged to support the campaign by offering discounts and set menus.

Asked about the campaign, Achkar said he hoped it would somehow help the struggling sector but reiterated that prices had already been reduced.

“We have been offering high discounts for many months, but given that airfares and other services are included in one package, we are hopeful that it will lure in some tourists,” he said.

But without resolving political differences among the Lebanese and those with GCC countries, little can be expected from the campaign, he added.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 10, 2013, on page 5.

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