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Lebanese Tourism Pays the Ultimate Price

Lebanon lacks oil and mineral resources. It is geographically too small to be independent in terms of agriculture. And the only way the country can survive is by relying on its services sector, mainly tourism, if and when politics permit.

But Lebanon has not been lucky with this regard. It has been plagued with a 30 year civil war which repelled tourists. After that, and whenever the Lebanese tried to attract visitors to the Land of the Cedars, whether Westerners or Arabs, a calamity would take place and all efforts to promote the tourism sector would go in vain.

Impacts on tourism

Cedar trees in the snow, Bcharre, Lebanon. Image by Flickr user Leandroid (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Cedar trees in the snow, Bcharre, Lebanon. Image by Flickr user Leandroid (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Just some of the incidents which have impacted Lebanese tourism recently include the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri in 2005 and the wave of other political murders which followed, the July 2006 war with Israel, the May 2008 internal conflict between different political factions, and the recent events with the divide over the Syrian crisis and the return of kidnappings to the local scene.

With the warning of embassies to their citizens to leave Lebanon, reservations in hotels dropped by 60 per cent the week of August 14, 2012. Cancellations have also been noted in terms of flight reservations.

On Twitter, the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted the Embassy number in Beirut, urging its citizens in Lebanon to contact their Embassy to ensure their swift return back to their home [ar]:

لمواطني الدولة المتواجدين حاليا في لبنان التواصل مع سفارة الدولة في بيروت على الرقم009611857000 أو بادارة العمليات على الرقم00971600599991
@MOFAUAE For citizens currently in Lebanon, please contact the Embassy in Beirut on the following number () or the operations on …

Lebanese netizens are mourning the tourism season. Najib from Blog Baladi is sad:

All in all, I think this is the worst summer we’ve had in Lebanon for the past 10 years, even worse than the 2006 summer. That’s really sad specially with all the potential we have in this country.

On Twitter, Rawad Khoueiry summarizes the situation:

@rawadkhoueiry: Summer Tourism in lebanon: No Electricity, Mokdad Military Wing, Airport Road Cut, North Frontier Shooting

Wael Abou Diab explains the causes [ar]:

#بيروت تعاني …فنادق فارغة و سياحة شبه معدومة و الأسباب أمنية إقليمية عشائرية
@Waelad: Beirut is suffering. Empty hotels, quasi non-existing tourism. The reasons are sectarian, regional and related to the clans.

But as usual Lebanese sense of humour is always present against all odds. Ralph Nader believes that the huge number of Syrians taking refuge in Lebanon will make it up for the loss of Gulf nationals.

@Aamchit: Tourism is booming in Lebanon. People are coming from Damascus, Tartous, Homs, Aleppo, Deir El Zor and many other cities. #irony

Tourists have become such a rare species in Lebanon that Bechara is surprised.

@BouCha2ra: Guess what?! I saw a tourist yesterday! \m/ O.o #Lebanon

Zeina Mhanna is also sarcastic:

@MissZenaH: Today I had a Turkish tourist client.. I gave her directions to protect herself from aliens abduction in #Lebanon

Wajih has been visiting Istanbul and that is how he is promoting tourism for his country:

@neruda906: Someone tell the Minister of Tourism I'm doing a great job here, I'm convincing everybody I meet not to visit Beirut :) #Lebanon

Gulf netizens react

Voile Bleue beach in Jbeil, Lebanon. Image by Flickr user  Haole Punk (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Voile Bleue beach in Jbeil, Lebanon. Image by Flickr user Haole Punk (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

With Al Mekdad Clan threatening to kidnap them, nationals from the Gulf were disappointed. Maktoum Bin Butti, from the UAE, notes:

@Makoumbinbutti: GCC countries supported Lebanon financially and boosted their tourism & in return they get kidnapped #awkward#GCC

AbdulRahman Al Haji calls his fellow citizen to boycott Lebanon [ar]:

من اليوم فصاعداً يا سواح الخليج قاطعوا لبنان بروحهم دولة دايخة قاطعوهم قاطعوهم
@alhajji1963: From now, Gulf tourists, boycott Lebanon, a confusing state. Boycott them. Boycott them

Borzou Daraghi, who is MENA correspondent for the Financial Times, believes Jordan and Turkey will benefit mostly from what is happening in Lebanon:

@Borzou: With #Syria, #Egypt & now #Lebanon off the rich Gulf Arab tourist circuit I bet #Turkey & #Jordan will be raking in the cash

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