Despite challenges in recent years, Lebanon's economy has continued to heavily rely on tourism. Yasmine Eid Maalouf, general manager, Ramada Downtown Beirut, elaborated that tourism, along with alternative tourism industries, has been historically important to the local economy, and remains to this day, a major source of revenue.
The value of the industry is immediately apparent when considering that, in 2016, 6.9 percent of total employment was directly supported by tourism, as revealed by World Travel & Tourism Council.
In terms of market value, the direct contribution of the travel industry accounted for seven percent of the national GDP, worth USD3.3 billion in 2016.
The overwhelming observations of industry professionals across the country is an overall improvement in the first few months of the year compared to the ongoing challenges experienced in 2016.
As exemplified by Rita Saad, director, marketing and public relations, Le Gray, "Comparing this year to 2016, we can say it is much better.
We are already at 65 percent occupancy year-to-date, compared to 50 percent in 2016."
Even with this optimistic start to the year, it is not without its sacrifices, as hoteliers pull out all the stops to attract guests. Maalouf explained, "[...] We have seen a decrease of average room rate due to the severe competition and five-star [properties] lowering their rates."
EVER MORE STABLE
While the travel and tourism industry in Lebanon is yet to fully get back on its feet, it is certainly taking steps in the right direction, primarily due to increased political stability on the back of the recent political events.
Mohamad Zein, director, sales and marketing, Four Points by Sheraton Le Verdun, summarised, "I believe this year will be better than 2016, especially after the presidential elections and stability in security [...]."
Demonstrating how vital the political situation is in regaining potential visitor's trust, Caroline Chemaly Wakim, general manager, The Bayview Hotel, expounded, "After the elections, [...] we have noticed an increase in the reservations from GCC countries."
Corroborating the view of his peers, Ziad Kaade, hotel manager, Portemilio Hotel & Resort, underscored just how important security is. The overwhelming unison among hoteliers is that financial and geopolitical stability is fundamental to a successful year, and future.
Kaade illustrated, "[The] tourism sector is influenced by the political situation in Lebanon."
He added that as long as it remains stable, the country will witness a promising season with remarkable growth.
However, looking to the positive that has arisen from the pior taxing years, Micheline Azoury, director, sales, Grand Hills, a Luxury Collection Hotel & Spa, Broumana, explained that such demanding times have led to the development of a plethora of emerging segments, which now enables Lebanon to serve the most alternative of traveller.