Lebanon starts 2012 on a high

Low-budget tourism campaigns prove to be a success for Lebanon

Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud voiced optimism about Lebanon’s tourism prospects, highlighting a 22 per cent rise in the number of Arab tourists who visited the country in January 2012 compared to the same period last year.

“The number of Arab tourists returning to Lebanon is growing. We saw a 21.77 per cent increase compared to January 2011,” he said to The Daily Star, a Lebanese newspaper.

Abboud said his ministry’s simple and low-budget tourism promotion campaign launched in various Arabic-language newspapers had helped in the improved tourism. But he complained that his ministry’s 2012 budget fell below the levels required to give a needed boost to the vital sector.

Last year, Lebanon posted the sixth steepest decline in tourist arrivals worldwide in 2011, with a 24.4 per cent decrease from the previous year, according to preliminary figures issued by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). In comparison, tourist arrivals grew by 4.4 per cent globally, by five per cent in advanced economies and by 3.8 per cent in emerging markets. Also, tourist arrivals dropped by eight per cent in the Middle East and fell by 12 per cent in North Africa.

Globally Lebanon’s fall in tourist arrivals was higher than those of Tonga and Jordan with declines of 17.4 per cent and 15.7 per cent, respectively and lower than those of Japan and Tunisia with decreases of 29.1 per cent and 30.7 per cent, respectively, according to the newspaper.

Regionally, Lebanon posted the fifth steepest decline in tourist arrivals, coming ahead of Jordan that posted a decline of 15.7 per cent in tourist arrivals, Palestine (-11.6 per cent) and Israel that posted growth of 0.6 per cent, Morocco (+1.6 per cent), Turkey (+8.9 per cent), the UAE (+9.6 per cent), Cyprus (+10.2 per cent), Oman (+12.9 per cent) and Saudi Arabia (+82.8 per cent). Lebanon was preceded by Tunisia with a drop of 30.7 percent, Bahrain (-32.7 per cent), Egypt (-33.2 per cent) and Syria (-41 per cent).

In parallel, the WTO said tourism receipts in Lebanon totalled $8 billion in 2010, up by 18.3 percent from 2009 and constituting the sixth highest growth rate in the Arab world and the third highest when excluding countries with tourism receipts of less than $1 billion.

Lebanon ranked in 34th place globally in terms of tourism receipts in 2010, behind Croatia ($8.3 billion) and ahead of Indonesia ($7 billion), while it ranked third regionally behind Egypt ($12.5 billion) and the UAE ($8.6 billion).

Furthermore, tourism expenditures in Lebanon totalled $4.7 billion in 2010 compared to $4 billion in 2009. Lebanon ranked in 39th place globally in tourism expenditures in 2010, up from 41st place in the previous year. Lebanon ranked ahead of Finland and behind Turkey in this category.

Figures issued by the Tourism Ministry show that the number of incoming tourists totalled 1,655,051 in 2011, constituting a decrease of 23.7 per cent from 2,167,989 tourists in 2010 and compared to an increase of 17 per cent in 2010. The number of Arab tourists contracted by 22.5 per cent year-on-year, tourists from Europe declined by 2.1 per cent annually, those from Asia dropped by 46.5 per cent, tourists from the Americas decreased by 17.8 per cent.