Lebanon on a recovery course

Baalbek Bekaa valley, Lebanon

Lebanon’s hoteliers, car rental owners and the national carrier Middle East Airlines experienced a sudden boom in tourist numbers this summer, after years of political unrest within that country. The country’s strategic location on the Mediterranean Sea is ideal for tourists wanting a mild summer season, warm coastal waters, blue skies, fresh air and rugged mountain peaks.
“In mid June occupancy rate was around 43 per cent compared to 37 per cent at the same period last year and we were selling at rack rate prices,” says Yisr Daya Zein, personal assistant to the general manager at Coral Beach Hotel and Resort. “It was definitely a booming summer especially when we look at the number of reservations. We were fully booked on weddings for the whole summer and expected an occupancy rate of 100 per cent for July and August,” she said.
 General Manager of Gefinor Rotana Hotel, Mark Timbrell said there was a significant pick up in the number of tourists from the Gulf at the end of May. “We have also seen a return of corporate business groups providing much of the needed base occupancy.”
Tarek Ammache, general manager of Heliopolitan Hotel says the month of June was excellent and the best month this year. “We were at 60 per cent occupancy in June compared to 40 per cent at the same period last year,” he said. “This was excellent, since we had very little chance to pick up business as the Presidency was only announced at the end of May.”
He anticipated the hotel to have 100 per cent occupancy rates during July and August, as did Monroe Hotel’s senior sales executive Abir Abi Rached.
Movenpick Hotel and Resort Beirut’s communication executive Rita Chbat found the summer was busy with higher occupancy levels achieved.  Chbat says Movenpick embraced a positive tourism climate by launching summer festival activities under the theme “Celebrate Lebanon, where there is room for everyone.”
Mira Hawa resident manager of the Movenpick in Beirut said, “To beat the rush of the international leisure and business traveller from the Gulf, Europe and from all over the world, we equipped ourselves for this bumper season.” Changes included creating an outdoor sea view Essential Spa and a new outdoor fish restaurant called La Poissonnerie de Bourj Al Hamam.
Gefinor Rotana’s Timbrell predicted a strong July and August, with rates reaching into the ninties. “Most of our business comes from the Gulf countries,” he added.  The hotel opened its  outdoor rooftop bar for the summer season, and had doubled the number of weddings since last year. “We had a highly successful wedding package which included a free relaxing massage and a two night stay at our sister Hotel, Grand Rotana Resort and Spa in Sharm El Sheikh.”
The car rental industry during the summer was busy too. Hertz Rent a Car’s Ali Hussein Allaaeddine experienced at 60 per cent rental rate, saying that business was better than last year.
 Europcar’s Fuad Kurban has been in the car rental business for 44 years and described this summer season as “Great - I am overbooked and am in the process of buying cars for customers.” Twin Rent a Car’s Rabih Khoury said that his business was 100 per cent better with the establishment of a stable political environment.
Lebanon’s national aviation carrier, Middle East Airlines will be making more than $60 million this year according to the director of Public Relations, Rima Mikaoui. “We had great bookings for July and August.” The rise in fuel prices was affecting business but in general the airline was setting record numbers in terms of profit. “As long as Lebanon is good we will be fine. So far we are doing great this year.”

By Raghda Mughrabil