New Year’s festivities offer a glimmer of hope for Lebanese hospitality industry in crisis

BEIRUT: hotels in Lebanon suffered from a sharp drop in occupancy rates on

last year, but the New Year’s holidays offer hope for the sector as bookings have increased slightly in recent days, Pierre Ashkar, head of the Syndicate of Hoteliers in Lebanon, told Xinhua.

Ashkar said the average monthly occupancy rate over the past year was around 23%, but bookings at Beirut hotels for the period from December 28, 2021 to January 1, 2022 have increased to about 50%.

He noted that bookings at the very few hotels in Faraya and Faqra, villages mainly known for their snow-capped slopes, amount to around 75 percent on New Years. “Most requests for hotel rooms in Beirut and in the mountainous regions during the holiday season come from Lebanese expatriates from the Gulf and African countries, ”Ashkar said.

Ashkar attributes the low hotel occupancy rates to the political instability that has forced the United States, Canada and many countries in Europe to warn their citizens against traveling to Lebanon.

He added that the diplomatic feud with Saudi Arabia has deprived Lebanon of Gulf tourists who spend at least 15 days in the country while allocating a large budget for spending during the Christmas and New Year holiday season.

“It’s a shame to have lost a lot of tourists from different places,” he said. Ashkar noted that the tourism sector previously generated around US $ 10 billion in annual revenue, which has fallen to US $ 3 billion due to political instability and the Covid-19 epidemic.

“A large number of hotels have closed their doors instead of maintaining their operations and suffered increased losses in the absence of tourists amid the current increase in spending,” Ashkar said.

Hotels polled by Xinhua reported a sharp drop in occupancy throughout the year, with the exception of the five-day New Year’s holiday, which has seen a recent surge in demand for hotel rooms. .

“We have suffered throughout the past year to be able to record a 35% occupancy rate at our hotel, but the demand for rooms during the New Year holidays is acceptable,” said Ayman Nasreddine, COO. of the Cavalier hotel, a four-star hotel. to Hamra, told Xinhua. ‘

“Most of the demand is coming from Egyptians at an average rate of US $ 70 per night compared to US $ 120 in the past,” Nasreddine said.

Likewise, Rami Fakhreddine, front desk manager at 35 Rooms Hotel in Beirut, told Xinhua that most of the New Year’s demand for his hotel comes from Egyptians who now find Lebanon an affordable destination given the collapse of the local currency against the US Dollars.

“There were also a lot of packages to Lebanon which saw a high demand from the Egyptians,” he said. Dalia Doumani, head of reservations at Riviera, a five-star hotel in Beirut, told Xinhua that bookings at her hotel for the New Year have reached around 60 percent so far and are expected to increase in the coming days.

She noted that even Lebanese expats paid in US dollars consider the prices too high when converting them to Lebanese pounds given the collapse of the local currency, which also explains the lower occupancy rates compared to years ago. previous ones.

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