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Hotel occupancy listless despite security uptick

Yachts are seen docked in Zaitunay Bay in front of the Phoenicia Hotel in Beirut, Sunday, May 18, 2014. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Despite the stable security situation, Lebanese hotels will not witness any remarkable pickup in reservations before the end of the month of Ramadan, industry experts told The Daily Star.

“Reservations for the coming three months stand at 40 percent to 50 percent for the time being but they will definitely increase toward the end of Ramadan starting July 20,” said Jean Beiruti, secretary-general of the Hotels Owner Association.

Beiruti added that the election of a new president would help boost the tourism season and increase hotel occupancy rates.

“However, even if the presidential election does not take place soon, tourism activity will still pick up due to the expected arrival of Lebanese expatriates and Arab tourists, but there will definitely be no boom.”

A number of hotel managers interviewed by The Daily Star appeared to agree with Beiruti. Business conferences and medical tourism account for most reservations during the month of Ramadan at a lower average rate per room compared to previous years, the managers said.

“For now we are keeping our prices as they are because demand on our rooms is still low compared to 2011 and to the years before,” said Ayman Nasser al-Dine, sales manager at Hotel Cavalier. “Our average rate per room stands at around $90 nowadays compared to $130 during high seasons.”

Nasser al-Dine said that the demand on rooms at Hotel Cavalier is coming mainly from Jordanians, Syrians and Libyans but not from the Gulf region. “We still did not feel the positive impact of the Gulf countries lifting their travel ban to Lebanon,” he said.

He added that most of the reservations are made for conferences and business purposes rather than tourism. “We cannot say that we are not witnessing an improvement because reservations for business purposes were too slow in the past few months but now they have started to improve gradually,” he said.

“However, we are still waiting for people from the Gulf to visit Lebanon for tourism purposes similar to previous years.”

Mohammad Kanaan, director of Sales and Marketing at Golden Tulip, said the occupancy rate at his hotel for the month of June stood at 60 percent compared to 40 percent only for the month of July. “ Ramadan does not really attract Gulf tourists, knowing as well that schools in that region usually close their doors around June 15,” he said. “So Lebanese hotels must not expect tourists to flow to Lebanon before the end of Ramadan.”

Kanaan said reservations for June at his hotel were made mainly by Libyans, Iraqis and Egyptians for work purposes rather than leisure and tourism. “It is true that the security situation has remarkably improved in the past few months but the delay in the presidential election may also be a factor preventing Gulf tourists from coming back to Lebanon,” he added.

Wissam Msharrafieh, manager of White house suites said that his establishment has seen a high occupancy rate mainly by Iraqis who come to Lebanon for medical reasons. “Around 90 percent of our guests are Iraqis and we did not witness any tourists from the Gulf region following the lifting of the travel ban to Lebanon,” he said. “We are fully aware that Gulf people do not prefer to come to Lebanon during Ramadan but we expect the month of August to show some improvement.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 29, 2014, on page 5.

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Summary

Despite the stable security situation, Lebanese hotels will not witness any remarkable pickup in reservations before the end of the month of Ramadan, industry experts told The Daily Star.

Business conferences and medical tourism account for most reservations during the month of Ramadan at a lower average rate per room compared to previous years, the managers said.

Mohammad Kanaan, director of Sales and Marketing at Golden Tulip, said the occupancy rate at his hotel for the month of June stood at 60 percent compared to 40 percent only for the month of July.

Kanaan said reservations for June at his hotel were made mainly by Libyans, Iraqis and Egyptians for work purposes rather than leisure and tourism.


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