Lebanon’s hotel industry getting back on track

The Movenpick Beirut saw a healthy occupancy during the summer months

Lebanon’s hotel industry is taking a turn for the better this August and with a bit of stability will make an impressive turn around by the end of the year that is what all hotel sales and marketing directors are hoping for.

Working around the clock and always trying to promote Lebanon as a destination, hotel executives are doing all what they possibly can to keep the hotel business running in a country where bookings can't be forecast and market predictions are impossible.
This is exactly what Mira Hawa, director of sales and marketing at the Movenpick Hotel and Resort Beirut has been doing since last year's July War.
"We have our thinking caps on and are working on revenue enhancement and marketing initiatives to promote Lebanon as a destination and to support Lebanon," she told TTN.
Being very proactive and working with travel agencies and tour operators, Hawa is trying her best to keep Lebanon as a destination on the market.
“We assist journalists visiting Lebanon in gaining positive press. We believe this is the best destination marketing endorsement wise for the industry as a whole,” she said.
“The first seven months of 2007, have been positive all factors considered. By following an intelligent rate integrity strategy our 2007 results month to date has placed the Movenpick Hotel and Resort Beirut first position RGI benchmark wise within our competitive set,” she said.
As a result of their hard work, team effort and strategic forward planning on marketing and business development initiatives, the Mِvenpick Hotel and Resort Beirut showed a healthier than predicted outcome for the months of June and July.
The property was the top hotel in terms of occupancy. In terms of occupancy, she said, the hotel is looking at a fairly healthy occupancy level for August.
In a country where political instability has left its toll, hotel executives are breathing a bit of fresh air this August as many tourists from the Arab market are making their way back to Lebanon before the months of Ramadan.
Danny Gedaa, corporate director of sales and marketing, at the Monroe Hotel in Beirut, said that the forecast for mid August is for business at the hotel to pick up, but at the same time he's frustrated that he can’t really forecast anything due to the political deadlock.
"We have reservations that begin at 30 per cent at the beginning of the day and end at 50 per cent at the end of it," he said.
According to Gedaa, tourists are planning their trip to Beirut last minute after listening to news and making sure the country is safe. He told TTN that occupancy rates have reached 70 per cent in mid-July, but he is still not very satisfied with this summer's outcome.
“This summer is as expected, the political tension is not helping and I am expecting more," he admits.
Rana Younes, director of public relations at the Heliopolitan Hotel said that August has had a better showing than the previous two months. "We have the Jordanian market, and the Gulf tourists who are flocking back for the few weeks before the fasting season of Ramadan.”
Occupancy rates have been at 50 per cent and for the summer season. Younes wasn’t ecstatic, but said it was an improvement.
"As hotels we rely on the summer season to make up for the dead seasons that come later on during the year," she said.
As all hotel executives Younes as well as others are waiting for the Lebanese presidential elections to run smoothly. “We can't forecast anything at the moment but we are selling at higher rate, not the typical high season rates we're used to in previous years.”
Up in the Lebanon's north the Grand Hills Resort and Spa is taking a turn for the better this August with the special offers it’s creating to tempt locals and honeymooners.
“At the end of July bookings started to pick up especially with the special offers being applied that included breakfast, spa treatment and dinner for $239,” said Berthe Barakat, director of sales and marketing.
The weekend packages at the Grand Hills hotel were a big hit that the hotel couldn’t receive any more customers.
“The spa is full. We have good bookings especially from honeymooners and Arab people and are at 60 per cent occupancy,” she said.
Barakat as other hotel executives are cutting down on prices, creating special offers and are doing all what it takes to keep their hotels running.
“Right now we are using our survival policy hoping the situation will improve,” she said.
“It is actually, not all grim, the Lebanese are a resilient breed with a strong survival instinct and an incredible ability to re-invent themselves and “think out of the box”.
“We are confident that it is just a matter of time to restore the complete return of tourism,” said Hawa.
All executives agree on one thing and that is, if the political situation is solved their respective hotels will have 100 per cent occupancy the second day.
“I know for a fact that if the political deadlock is over we will be fully booked tomorrow,” said Gedaa.
Younes added a similar note, “If all goes well with the presidential elections it will be great for the hotel industry.”
By Raghda Mugharbil