News / Economy

Lebanon Hopes Gulf Arabs Will Revitalize Tourism Industry

People walk past empty restaurants in downtown Beirut, Nov. 20, 2012.People walk past empty restaurants in downtown Beirut, Nov. 20, 2012.
x
People walk past empty restaurants in downtown Beirut, Nov. 20, 2012.
People walk past empty restaurants in downtown Beirut, Nov. 20, 2012.
Reuters
A new Lebanese government's best hope of rebooting its battered economy may lie in efforts to persuade wealthy Gulf Arab tourists to return after a boycott last year, but it is a gargantuan task.

Flooded with 400,000 refugees from a Syrian conflict that regularly leaks over the border into the north of the Mediterranean nation, Lebanon saw four of the Gulf's oil-rich states tell nationals to stay away in 2012.

The war in Syria has also shut off a highway that used to bring 300,000 tourists annually into the country, famous for its beaches, mountains and fine food, helping slash tourist numbers from the Gulf by 80 percent.

But many in Lebanon believe that the boycott was more to do with the opposition to its last government from Saudi Arabia, and caretaker tourist minister Fadi Abboud sees hope in Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam's better ties with Riyadh.

"I believe that the political reasons for the [Gulf] boycott have disappeared," Abboud, who is continuing his role until Salam forms his new government, told Reuters.

Dropping tourism, falling economy

Tourism in the Mediterranean nation accounts for around 15 percent of GDP, but visitor numbers fell by 17 percent last year, causing overall economic growth to drop to two percent from 5.2 percent a year earlier.

Abboud said that about 1.5 million tourists visited Lebanon last year, down from a high of just over two million in 2010 before the outbreak of the conflict in Syria, which has killed at least 70,000 people according to the United Nations.

So far this year, visitor numbers already are down by eight percent, suggesting Abboud's hopes of seeing numbers back above two million this year are unlikely to be met.

Gulf Arabs are drawn to Lebanon by its cooler climate and a more liberal atmosphere than the neighboring desert states, but governments encouraged their nationals to stay away last summer after violence in the northern city of Tripoli and a spate of kidnappings.

Opportunity amid challenge

The conflict in Syria, however, also has cut all land routes from the Gulf to Lebanon, whose only other border - with Israel - remains a hostile frontline.

Violence also has spilled over the border, with rocket-fire killing Lebanese residents of the Bekaa Valley and dozens of people killed in sporadic street fighting in Tripoli. In October, Lebanon's security chief was assassinated by a powerful car bomb in the capital Beirut.

But despite the security challenges, Abboud said Lebanon still hoped to draw visitors from across the world.

"We have new and promising markets, including Russia and South America. I think they are all promising. If the security situation is good we will have a better year than last," he said.

You May Like

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8845
JPY
USD
117.71
GBP
USD
0.6643
CAD
USD
1.2669
INR
USD
62.019

Rates may not be current.