By Clovis Choueifaty
BEIRUT, July 27 (KUNA) -- Despite the dire economic and financial situation, the tourism sector in Lebanon could be described as "busy" with Arab and foreign tourists taking advantage of the falling exchange rate of the Lebanese Pound against the US Dollar, which entailed lower prices for services within the sector.
Though it is true that there were more clients flocking to restaurants and hotels, profits for such institutes are going down due to the 10-fold increase in the exchange rate of the US Dollar against the Lebanese Pound.
The current exchange rate between the USD and Lebanese Pound is one of the major factors encouraging tourists to visit Lebanon because they would spend less if they choose to visit, said Director of Civil Aviation at the Rafiq Al-Hariri International Airport Fadi El-Hassan.
Iraqis are considered one of the largest group of tourists visiting Lebanon currently along with European visitors, El-Hassan indicated, adding that tourists coming from the GCC region were on the decline due to strict COVID-19 measures undertaken by their governments concerning travel.
On his part, President of the Hotel Owners Association, Pierre Achkar said that most tourists from the Arab region hailed from Iraq, Jordan, and Egypt while there was also a strong presence of foreign counterparts.
Some 450,000 Lebanese, residing in the GCC and the Africa region, also sought relaxation in their country rather than Europe and other destinations, said Achkar who also claimed that an estimated 700,000 Lebanese citizens, who used to travel abroad, were now choosing to stay and enjoy the local tourism scene, leading to an increase in hotel reservations.
Although there was an increase in local touristic activities, profits were on the downturn due to most hotels sticking to the Lebanese Pound price rating rather than the highly valued US Dollar, revealed Achkar.
He added that at the current moment, hotels were trying to survive and not focus on making profits.
On the GCC touristic activities in Lebanon, Achkar viewed the situation as bleak because of the political turmoil in the country, which has been raging on since 2014. This had drove Gulf citizens away from Lebanon, he said.
Meanwhile, Joseph Rachid -- a restaurant owner in the Mount Lebanon Governorate -- saw that most of the customers were of Lebanese expatriates spending their vacation in the motherland.
A group of 10 might enjoy a hefty meal which would cost less than a USD 100, Rachid noted, saying that local customers, frequenting his establishment, are becoming less than before due to their salaries being paid in the Lebanese Pound.
Rachid revealed that he had to close the foreign dishes section of his restaurant because ingredients were becoming more difficult to export, adding that the only mission for him was to survive rather than make a huge profit. (end)