Lebanon made a brave showing at the recent World Travel Market, and the country’s ability to reconstruct its tourism sector while continuing to be an attractive travel destination is being supported by the United Nations World Travel Organisation.
“UNWTO and its members stand behind Lebanon,” said UNWTO secretary general, Francesco Frangialli. “Our sector is only a part of the losses suffered in Lebanon, but tourism is of great importance for the economic recovery and development of the whole country.”
Frangialli was speaking at a joint press conference with the ministers of Lebanon and Jordan.
Joseph Sarkis, Minister of Tourism for Lebanon, said, “There are already signs that regional business is picking up and we are very confident in the medium term outlook.”
UNWTO is developing a Special Programme for the Reconstruction of Lebanon’s Tourism Economy that will assess the economic impact of the recent conflict and seek to restore market confidence, while formulating a strategic plan for the sustainable re-development of tourism.
While UNWTO expects 2006 figures to be down on 2005, Arab tourists led the return to Lebanon, particularly at the end of Ramadan, and the end of the year is expected to bring in more, Sarkis said.
Conflicts and tensions have slowed down growth before but do not produce significant decreases in overall volumes of flows. “We have repeatedly seen months with substantial drops in arrivals that were followed by flows bouncing back quickly and strongly once stability re-emerged,” Frangialli said.
Sarkis said that no hotel facilities were damaged and the rebuilding of general infrastructure is now underway. The challenge now, besides reconstruction, is stability in the destination and rebuilding confidence in source markets, particularly in Europe.