BEIRUT: Arab and foreign tourists are booking rooms in five star hotels over Eid al-Fitr as Arab Airline companies increase the number of their flights to Lebanon by 25 percent during the period, a number of hotels and travel agencies said Thursday.
“Middle East Airlines and other Arab airlines have increased their flights to Lebanon to 80 flights mainly from Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Emirates,” Jean Abboud, the president of the Association of Travel and Tourist Agents in Lebanon, told Al Markazia news agency.
Abboud noted that the airlines’ activity will remain this way until Sept. 10, expressing optimism for a great tourism season in August.
He also pointed out an improvement by 3.8 percent in the business of travel agencies during the past six months compared to the same period last year.
“I expect the number of passengers using Rafik Hariri International Airport to reach 15,000 daily, similar to the record registered in the years 2009 and 2011,” he said.
Abboud’s comments were backed by a number of five star hotels that reported high rates of reservations for Eid al-Fitr from July 27 to Aug. 1.
“We are doing very well and reservations in our hotel for Eid al-Fitr have reached until 9 in the morning today around 85 percent and we got some more new requests so the percentage is definitely higher,” Maria Mouawie, director of sales at Riviera Hotel and Beach Lounge told The Daily Star.
Mouawie said she expects occupancy to reach 100 percent during the week of Eid al-Fitr.
However, Mouawie said that reservations for the period following Eid al-Fitr stand at 50 percent only but she added that she usually receives requests only a week prior to the date in target. “I am sure that we will receive more requests next week for the period after Eid al-Fitr,” she said. “I am very optimistic about the coming period.”
Similarly, Hilal Saade, sales and marketing director at hotel Le Gray, reported an expected occupancy rate of 85 percent minimum for the coming week.
“Reservations on the book stand at 65 percent for the time being but we are expecting this number to go up to 85 percent,” he said.
Saade expressed his optimism about the coming month because Le Gray managed to be fully booked for Eid al-Fitr last year, even though two bombs took place during Ramadan.
Saade even noted that the hotel is selling on a high season rate for the coming week. “Our minimum price is $325 and we are still receiving good requests,” he said.
On the other hand, lower rated hotels in Hamra did not report an increase in the level of reservations for the coming week contrary to five star hotels.
“Reservations for the week of Eid al-Fitr have only reached 70 percent until now which is lower than previous years and less than expected,” said Mohammad Kanaan, director of sales and marketing at the Golden Tulip Serenada hotel.
“I believe that we did not witness a great demand on our rooms because most of those coming for vacation are Lebanese expatriates and not tourists mainly,” he said.
Kanaan’s remarks were echoed by Ayman Nasser, sales manager at Hotel Cavalier who said that reservations requests are very weak and they did not exceed 50 percent yet. “I guess that the high activity of airline companies is due mostly to Lebanese expatriates coming to spend their vacation in Lebanon,” he said adding that only restaurants and cafes are likely to benefit from expats.
Mouawie attributed the high reservations requests at five star hotels and resorts to the fact that tourists during this time of the year are mostly interested in beach activities.
“During winter, we usually suffer from low occupancy rates because we are a resort and people won’t benefit from our full services in winter,” she said adding that they would prefer to pay less since they won’t be swimming.
She added that smaller hotels would mainly benefit in winter when companies reserve for conferences and such events. “Companies usually tend to reduce their conferences and workshops in July and August,” she said.