100 festivals for 100 summer nights. $10 million budget - Lebanon

100 festivals for
100 summer nights
$10 million budget
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“There are over 100 festivals this summer, growing from around 50 in the previous years,” said Nada Sardouk, Director General of the Ministry of Tourism (MoT).

International Festivals such as Baalbek, Beiteddine, and Byblos, attract a high number of visitors and offer an upper scale program with varied international artists. Emerging festivals, which have been celebrated for over five years, attract a growing number of celebrities and audiences. These include Jounieh International Festival, Batroun International Festival, Ehdeniyat, Yawmiyyat Ghalboun Festival, and Ehmej Festival.

According to Sardouk, there is a third category of festivals, includes festivals growing in remote areas. These events are skyrocketing despite their novelty and they will have a special place on the festival calendar soon. These include Kobayat Festival, the Cedars International Festival, which has returned after 50 years, and the Tannourine Festival, which is becoming a yearly celebration. Beside these, a growing number of villages are holding their own festivals. These include Amioun Festival, Bnashii Lake Festival, Dbayeh Festival.

This year, festivals are celebrated in various villages and cities, even in remote areas. “Festivals are getting positively contagious. Most villages are launching their own because they are trendy and help to promote the area and attract footfall,” said Nehme Harb, Deputy Chairman of the Municipal Council of Tannourine, which is organizing the festival of the village. According to him, they are willing to put more effort in order to raise the standards of their festival and make it more successful in the coming years. Tickets are available starting at LL20,000 at most festivals and reach LL180,000.

Several international artists have or will perform this year. These include Enrique Iglesias, Mireille Mathieu, Johnny Hallyday, John Legend, Zade. Local artists such as Najwa Karam, Wael Kfoury, and Nancy Ajram, have also performed on more than one stage.

Small and emerging festivals mainly rely on sponsorships and advertisers as funding sources. “The municipal treasury is not able to finance big budget events,” Harb said. An event such as theirs costs no less than $200,000, he said. Ehmej Festival costs less than one million dollars.

However, international events have budgets of around $500,000, according to Rabih Chaddad, Director of Festivals Department of the MoT. He said that budgets go up and down depending on the artists, their orchestras, their accommodations, and many other criteria.

The country has nine of these events, with an investment of no less than $5 million. Smaller festivals cost around $20,000 to $50,000 and go up depending on the artists and their accommodations and depending on the settings and decoration. According to Chaddad, there are around 90 small festivals. To sum up, festivals this summer are worth no less than $10 million. The value of the 90 small festivals equals that of the international nine.

“Even with very successful and fully booked events, the majority of these events find it hard to break even, especially with 33 percent taxes that they have to pay,” Sardouk said. She said that the MoT reimburses one third of the spent budgets, in a way to support the continuity of these festivals.

Sardouk said that these festivals promote art and culture while driving the economic cycle. “The boom in festivals this year is related to an overall improved tourism situation, especially with the increasing numbers of expats,” she said.

Imane Khalifé, responsible at the Ehmej Festival said that their festivities have fully booked around ten hotels within the village and in neighboring ones, such as Annaya. “We have over 120 volunteers working on the festival, over 70 kiosks selling authentic products and around 15,000 visitors per night,” she said. Ehmej Festival extends over four nights starting tomorrow and is expecting over 60,000 visitors. “Our Wael Kfoury night was already sold out two weeks ago,” she said. Investment in this festival is less than one million dollars, with professional sound and light.

The MoT has been trying since 2012 to incite villages to launch their festivals under its patronage in a way to organize this industry and promote it further. Sardouk said that the MoT, even if it cannot provide great financial support, is able to facilitate visa procedures and paperwork related to festivals.
Reported by Rana Freifer
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Date Posted: Aug 19, 2015