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

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7768
JPY
USD
108.84
GBP
USD
0.6124
CAD
USD
1.0999
INR
USD
61.042

Rates may not be current.