BEIRUT: The Tourism Ministry said Tuesday the number of Arab tourists increased by 90 percent in June, compared with the previous year.
“We don’t want the months of May and June, that witnessed this improvement, to be an exception, instead we want them to be a model for the coming months,” Tourism Minister Michel Pharaon said, arguing that the increase in tourism resulted from Lebanon’s “renewed openness to Gulf countries and the new dynamic in the tourism sector that accompanied the security plan.”
A statement released by the ministry cited an 80.5 percent increase in Saudi Arabian tourists this June, pointing out that the number of visitors topped 7,000 in June compared with approximately 4,000 during the same month in 2013.
Kuwaiti and Emirati tourists, meanwhile, saw the largest percentage increase with more than 4,000 and 800 respectively in June, an increase of approximately 123 percent compared with the previous year.
The improvement came after several Gulf countries lifted their advisories in May against travel to Lebanon, shortly after the formation of Tammam Salam’s Cabinet and the implementation of the security plan in Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley.
“As long as the agreement holds, it can’t be shaken by imported terrorism that in turn won’t influence the tourism movement,” Pharaon said, referring to the political and security agreement that was reached by the government.
Pharaon pointed out that as result of this agreement, terrorism “won’t get [threaten] the determination or will of the Lebanese toward stability and neutrality of Lebanon from regional events.”
The statement released by the ministry showed that the highest number of Arab tourists visiting Lebanon in June were Iraqis, at more than 16,000.
In second place, the number of Jordanian tourists to Lebanon slightly topped Saudi Arabia, with approximately 7,500 in June.
In addition to the increased number of Arab visitors, other nationalities made up 29 percent of tourists in Lebanon this June.
At the top of the list, the number of French tourists increased by a sizable 61 percent compared with June 2013, at more than 10,000.
German and Swedish tourists came next, with more than 5,000 Germans, and a little less than 5,000 Swedish visitors in June.
Pharaon expressed hope that tourism would see a revival during Eid al-Fitr and the month of August, after tourism declined in July due to tensions over terrorist cells targeting the country.
Jean Beiruti, head of the Association of Sea Resort Owners, confirmed the report by the Tourism Ministry.
“Yes there were a significant number of Gulf Arab tourists in Lebanon in June. But most of the Arabs who visited the country used to come to Lebanon in the past,” he added.
Beiruti stressed that it was not fair to compare the number of tourists this year to last year because there were hardly any Arab or foreign tourists in 2013.
However, most hotel owners told the paper that they didn’t expect a big number of tourists to come to Lebanon in July because the month of Ramadan is usually very slow.