Middle Eastern travellers are returning to Lebanon to the extent that, according to the experts, tourism receipts are set to rise by 7.9% to reach $6.4 billion in 2015.
Lebanon’s tourism industry is showing early signs of improvement in 2015, and with Colliers International forecasting a hotel occupancy figure of up to 49% for Beirut hotels, the country will be promoting its tourism message at this year’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2015.
Tourist arrivals increased for the ninth month in a row in February 2015, up year-on-year by 20.5% (175, 859 visitors) in the first two months of the year. Visitors from the Gulf countries registered a strong increase with double-digit growth from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE as well as Egypt and Iran.
“Colliers reports an increase across the board in January and February, from airport arrivals and average rate to hotel room occupancy. Lebanon has long been a favoured long weekend destination for GCC residents, and the added resurgence in Egyptian, and particularly, Iraqi tourists, in recent months, has created new demand,” said Nadege Noblet, Exhibition Manager for ATM.
According to the Bank Audi Research Center, this is supported by a rise in passenger traffic at Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport, which grew by 10.24% year-on-year in the first two months of 2015, recording 419,369 passenger movements, a record high for the period.
The Institute of International Finance (IIF), which is forecasting a healthy – and much-needed increase – in tourism receipts, which are set to rise by 7.9% to reach $6.4 billion this year, with a further possible increase of up to 12% in 2016, to touch $7.2 billion.
“Lebanon’s diverse tourism encompasses the stylish capital of Beirut with its chic cosmopolitan ambience and reputation for luxury retail, through to trendy beach locations, stunning natural beauty and mountain ranges, ancient cities and architectural heritage. This is a solid foundation on which to rebuilt interest and drive inbound arrivals,” said Noblet.
“In April 2014, Lebanon’s Ministry of Tourism launched its ‘Live, Love, Lebanon’ campaign, and this was a clear indicator of the government’s commitment to reviving the country’s tourism prospects as a major economic driver,” she added.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council’s Lebanon 2014 report, the direct contribution of travel and tourism to GDP was $3.2 billion (6.9% of total GDP) in 2013. Travel and tourism is also estimated to indirectly contribute $9 billion (19.2%) of GDP in 2013.
In 2015, these figures are forecast to rise by 2.1% and 2.2%, respectively with the sector also generating 92,500 jobs in 2013; with forecasted growth of 2.7% in 2014.
In July 2014, the non-profit organisation Beyond Beirut, which is funded by USAID, submitted a document detailing a five-year plan for development of a sustainable Lebanese tourism industry, which has been endorsed by various stakeholders including the Ministry of Tourism, ecotourism business and small guesthouse owners.