LEBANON: Homeward Bound (Part 4)

Perhaps the most notable shift observed by travel professionals in recent times is the change in source markets, not surprising when considering the travel advice of some overseas governments.

With this, there has been a boom in Lebanese tourists, both domestic holidaymakers and Lebanese diaspora returning to their homeland.

"We have also seen, during the last couple of years, the growth of a new kind of tourism – the local tourism, where Lebanese tend to discover their own country with different generations," explained Maalouf.

She further added that while the GCC is the hotel's main source market, it is in fact expatriates living in the region that Ramada Downtown – Beirut is targeting, alongside emerging markets such as Iran and North Africa.

In spite of sanctions imposed by GCC officials, the market continues to represent a significant proportion of arrivals.

Saad noted that 45 percent of all guests hail from this region, a clear indication of the role they play, followed by European arrivals, representing around 38 percent of the market.

Yet, it is undeniable that the uplift of the ban, which hoteliers unanimously hope will be implemented ahead of the summer season, will revitalise the tourism industry, providing a much needed boost.

Flouty expounded that the success of this year will be secured if GCC traveller are given the green light before the country's peak months.

OPTIMISM ALL ROUND

"Alternative tourism is picking up in Lebanon and is promising," concluded Rima El Husseini, director, Hotel Palmyra.

Nevertheless, El Husseini added that this is a result of initiatives of private enterprises, not those of the government.

While there is much to be done to reinvigorate Lebanon's tourism industry, the future is certainly hopeful, especially with the recent political changes.

As well as mentioning that the Ministry of Tourism is working with Syndicate of Hotel Owners in Lebanon, Chemaly Wakim added that thanks to the new government that is seriously working to empower the sector, The Bayview Hotel is expecting a 50 percent increase in reservations in the coming months.

Even with this, hoteliers are going above and beyond to reinstate confidence and lure in travellers from across the world. Ihab Kanawati, general manager, Staybridge Suites Beirut, explained, "Direct one-to-one sales visits to the international stated market are being organised in order to increase awareness of the country and strengthen [relationships] accordingly."

Indeed, while the trials are not yet over, this year has the potential to be the beginning of a new era, with alternative segments the ones to look out for, primarily because, as Saad summarised, "Niche travellers are very well served [...]."