Lebanon Businessnews News

Syrians lead hotel residents
Occupancy rate improves despite low tourist flow
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The number of tourist arrivals recorded a 12 percent regression during the first eight months of the year, compared to the same period of 2011. Total arrivals stood at 986,000 at end-August.The drop was mainly induced by a major decline in visitors from the Arabian Gulf.

Despite the tourist figures, hotel occupancy reported an increase. Occupancy at Beirut hotels reached an average of 65 percent until end-July, up by 11 percent y-o-y, according to Ernst and Young’s benchmark survey. The average room rate fell to $205, down by six percent.

The discrepancy between tourist numbers and hotel occupancy is attributed mainly to Syrian visitors, who are not taken into the tourists’ count. Bassam Zaidan, General Manager at four-star Midtown Hotel in Hamra, said 90 percent of the hotel’s guests are Syrians. He said the hotel is offering special rates to Syrian visitors, some $65 per night. “Most of them are families, who stay for three to four nights before moving into rented apartments for a longer residence,” Zaidan said. Some of them are just staying for a two-night stop, before traveling to other countries.

Syrians are mainly staying in regular rooms, but families from higher social classes are asking for suites. Zaidan said the hotel’s income up until August was higher than the results attained during the whole of last year.

Hotels outside the capital also captured a good share of Syrian incomers. Elie Akouri, director of the Country Lodge hotel and resort in Bsalim said: “During July and August over 35 percent of our guests were Syrians.” He said Syrian guests were offered special rates with discounts reaching 40 percent.

Starting early September, the number of Syrian visitors started to drop. “They now represent only ten percent of guests,” Akouri said. He said most families have moved into apartments closer to Beirut: “They are making arrangements for a longer stay, signing up their kids in local schools.”
Reported by Rana Freifer
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Date Posted: Sep 14, 2012