Lebanon looks to summer tourism windfall: minister

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Beirut (AFP) – Lebanon’s tourism minister said Wednesday that Lebanon’s ailing economy should receive a welcome injection of more than $3 billion from a rebound in summer tourism.

Lebanon defaulted on its debt in 2020, the local currency lost about 90 percent of its value on the black market, and the UN now considers four out of five Lebanese poor.

While skyrocketing inflation devastates Lebanese pound households, the unofficial exchange rate keeps prices attractive to most tourists.

“This summer is promising. We expect over a million tourists and $3-3.5 billion in revenue during this summer season,” Minister Walid Nassar told AFP.

The booking shows that three-quarters of the arrivals will be Lebanese citizens from the diaspora, he said.

“The other 25 percent are foreigners, mostly from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and the Gulf states,” Nassar added.

In recent years, the diaspora has shied away from the traditional summer homecoming due to the deadly 2020 Beirut port explosion and severe shortages exacerbating pandemic-related restrictions.

This sector has been one of the pillars of the Lebanese economy, bringing in about $10 billion a year.

World tourism is coming back to life after the Covid-19 pandemic and Lebanon is looking to attract tourists and their cash.

Despite crumbling infrastructure and massive power shortages, the tourism ministry has launched a massive PR campaign to promote the country as a tourist destination.

With the central bank’s coffers critically depleted and foreign aid dependent on reforms, a windfall in summer tourism revenue could buy Lebanon more time.

Nassar said the country’s leading political figures and security brokers “recognize how important it is for this summer season to be successful.”

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