Travel agencies demand airport access
Local firms concerned over government plans to regulate tourist services at airport
Travel and tourism agencies reiterated their demand to be granted access to the arrivals lounge at the Rafic Hariri International Airport. Until recently agency representatives could meet arriving tourists at the lounge to offer their services and win their business.
The Association of Travel and Tourist Agents in Lebanon (ATTAL) held a sit-in at the airport on Friday and called on authorities to renew their permits to enter the arrivals lounge. Their permits, renewable from year to year, expired on February 1.
“We have been allowed to access the arrivals zone each year for the past 25 years, but this year the authorities denied us permission,” said Mahmoud Khatib, vice president of ATTAL.
Khatib said that the ministries of tourism and public works and transportation are seeking to assign the job of receiving and escorting tourists to a private company.
On January 16, the Cabinet gave preliminary approval to assign private companies, foreign or domestic, to provide varied tourist services at the airport. Local agencies are concerned that their business would suffer if the decision was implemented.
Khatib, who also owns a local travel agency, said that such a decision would encourage corruption at the airport: “Travel agencies will have to pay off workers at the airport to escort tourists out on their behalf.”
Khatib also said that the Ministry of Tourism is looking to hire a private company to run the taxi business at the airport. He said that some officials support the decision to hand over tourist services at the airport to private companies for “personal gain.”
Reported by Hanadi Chami
Date Posted: May 08, 2012