Steep road ahead for Lebanon
The world’s fastest-growing tourism destination has numerous problems to overcome, from political instability to the price of making a phone call.
March 21, 2010 12:37 by Rasha Reslan
Tourism was once a key driver of Lebanon’s economy. And the tiny Middle East country was certainly good at pulling in the visitors, so much so that it attracted some flattering comparisons with Western European hotspots. Beirut was referred to as the ‘Paris of the Middle East’, while Lebanon itself was dubbed the region’s very own ‘Switzerland’.
The devastating Civil War did, of course, put an end to this.
But Lebanon’s tourism industry looks set for a revival. For the country topped the World Travel and Tourism Council’s (WTTC) list of the hotspots in the global travel industry, with an expected 11.3 percent increase in economic activity within the sector this year.
According to the WTTC, growth in Lebanon is expected to outstrip that in Qatar (10.9 percent), Sri Lanka (10.2 percent), Zimbabwe (9.2 percent) and China (7.1 percent).
So, could this ‘Switzerland of the East’ blossom once again?
Perhaps. As the pre-war heyday illustrated, the country has a lot going for it in terms of tourism. There’s the desirable climate and location, the cultural activities, the ancient ruins of the Roman and Greek eras, the skiing and the vineyards of the Bekaa Valley.
But as Lebanon attempts to boost tourism, there are many challenges to overcome.
First, the ongoing growth of the tourism industry depends heavily on stable political and security conditions – which can never be guaranteed.
Some analysts believe that Lebanon should plan for unexpected instability, asserting that ‘crisis management’ public relations strategies could limit the harm to the tourism industry, in the event of a political crisis.