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

US Gives Malaysia Questionable Upgrade in Human Trafficking Ranks

Malaysia’s upgrade seen as removing barrier to country’s participation in the US-led 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership More

Turkey, US Try to Establish Buffer Despite Differences

Coalition airstrikes in proposed zone would aim to drive out Islamic extremists, allowing targeted area to come under sway of anti-Assad rebels More

Video US: Millions Exploited by Vast Fortunes of Human Trafficking

State Department's annual report calls exploitation 'modern slavery,' brutalizing girls, women into prostitution and forcing men, women and children into low-wage jobs across the globe More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.9043
JPY
USD
123.19
GBP
USD
0.6445
CAD
USD
1.3030
INR
USD
64.170

Rates may not be current.