Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Preparations are underway across Lebanon to receive Arab tourists, who are expected to flock the country this summer despite fears about the security situation. From the capital, Beirut, all the way down to the mountains and the coastal areas, restaurateurs, hoteliers and tour organizers are busy making final preparations to receive the much-awaited tourists. And with festivals in Baalbek, Byblos and Beirut around the corner, workers in the tourism sector are making sure they have everything ready.
Lebanon this summer expects an uptick in the number of tourists, thanks to Saudi Arabia’s decision to lift the travel ban it had imposed on Saudi nationals wanting to visit Lebanon earlier this year, Lebanon’s Minister of Tourism Michel Pharaon told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“Without a doubt, the Kingdom’s decision in this regard reflected positively on Lebanon, and on all other Gulf governments that would consider the Saudi decision a positive sign of reassurance to their citizens should they wish to travel to Lebanon.
“In the past two months, Lebanon has received 4,000 tourists from Saudi Arabia, 14,000 from Iraq and 7,000 from Jordan, which is a very positive indicator.”
The minister said he expected several thousand more to arrive during the three-day festival of Eid Al-Fitr, when Muslims celebrate the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
Paul Arees, the head of the Syndicate of Hotel Owners in Lebanon, told Asharq Al-Awsat that Saudi Arabia’s decision to lift the travel ban has renewed optimism among public sector workers in Lebanon.
Hotel owners in areas popular among Gulf tourists have begun their preparations for the summer tourist season, and demand for workers in the tourism sector has soared to satisfy the market’s need ahead of the promising summer season.
Nasib Al-Hawi, who owns a cafe in Bhamdoun, 14 miles (23 kilometres) from Beirut, said he is redecorating his place after last year’s acute recession.
“Tourists from the Gulf, especially Saudi Arabia, particularly fancy this place, to the extent that some of them have purchased houses so that they can spend time with their friends in cool weather in the middle of summer,” he said.
To bolster the industry even further, the Lebanese Ministry of Tourism had recently launched special travel packages intended do open the way for tourists to explore Lebanon’s most notable attractions. These new tour packages will target tourists who fancy Lebanon’s coastal areas, picturesque views and archaeological sites.
Also on the ministry’s agenda are live concerts by some of the Arab world’s most popular artists. There will be live concerts by Iraqi crooner Kazem Al-Saher and Lebanese soprano Majda Al-Roumi during the enormously popular Beiteddine Art Festival, and performances by pop star Elissa and gravelly-voiced Syrian legend George Wassouf as part of the Beirut Festival.
Some of the Arab world’s most respected names, such as Lebanese composer and oud player Marcel Khalifa, will come to Lebanon alongside with non-Arab ones, such as Chinese pianist Lang Lang and French singer of “Alors On Danse” fame Stromae.
Summer entertainment and amusement seekers can enjoy offers as low as a thousand dollars to visit the depths and the passageways in the mountains, tour archaeological sites and beaches, and enjoy Beirut’s nightlife.