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Does potential conflict affect tourism?

Does potential conflict affect tourism?

As tensions with Israel continue following the recent border incident, will Lebanon’s tourism industry suffer? Probably not, argues Katherine Azmeh.

August 15, 2010 1:39 by

Tourists have gotten used to Israel’s tactics, and won’t be willing to pull the plug on their Lebanese vacation just because of the tree cutting incident, Lebanon’s Tourism Minister, Fadi Abboud, told Lebanon’s Daily Star last week.

Commenting on recent clashes that occurred between the Lebanese army and Israeli troops on the border, Abboud said he did not expect the incident to affect the tourism industry in Lebanon.

I’m inclined to agree. In the first half of 2010, just under a million tourists came to Lebanon, with Arab tourists accounting for around 40 percent of visitors, followed by 44 percent from Europe and Asia. I’m willing to wager that very few of these passport holders were under illusions about tranquility in southern Lebanon when they made their travel plans.

Besides, Lebanon’s southern border with Israel is not typically a must-see destination for tourists visiting the country, and even in the best of times, can be an area of volatility, less frequented by tourists.

“The main tourist playgrounds are focused on Beirut and on the mountains and beaches of the central part of Lebanon. There is far less infrastructure for visitors in the south, where development has long been neglected in general amid the turmoil,” USA Today reported earlier this spring.

Moreover, for tourists to visit the south, even in the most tranquil times, is a bit complicated. European and American citizens may require special permits to travel to border areas.

As an American, I think it is a fair characterization that European tourists are often more balanced than their American counterparts when it comes to evaluating the travel-worthiness of a volatile destination. Americans are often seen as embracing an “all or nothing” approach to tourism: If it isn’t completely safe, then it must be completely unsafe.

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