Lebanon Businessnews News

Iraqis lead tourist arrivals
Medical treatment main attraction
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The number of tourists during 2012 reached 1.36 million, down by 17 percent from 2011, according to the statistics of the Ministry of Tourism (MoT).

Visitors from Arab countries posted the sharpest drop of 21 percent year-on-year.
Throughout the year, there were just 458,000 Arab tourists, mainly due to the travel bans issued by GCC countries. Visitors from Europe, mainly France and Germany, came in second

Iraqis accounted for the highest number of tourists, with 127,000, followed by Jordanians and Saudis with 89,000 and 72,500 respectively. Mohamad Taleb, Embassy of Iraq secretary, said the majority of visiting Iraqis were medical tourists, seeking medical care and therapeutic treatment. “Iraqis used to travel by land to Damascus for treatment, but turmoil in Syria made them shift to Lebanon,” he said.

Several hospitals were reportedly crowded by Iraqis. Rafic Hariri University Hospital (RHUH) dedicated a whole building within its premises for patients from Iraq. Bilal Masri, assistant general director at the public hospital, said: “RHUH was chosen as a center for treating Iraqi patients based on an agreement signed between the Lebanese and Iraqi Ministries of Health.” The hospital even dedicated a guest house for Iraqis to stay in during their recovery period.

Iraqis were also here for business. Bassam Zeidan, general manager at Midtown Hotel in Hamra, said: “Over 45 percent of our clients were Iraqis. Around 75 percent of them were here for medical treatment, while the rest were here to discuss investment plans.”

Zeidan said wealthy Iraqis who cannot find good investment opportunities at home, often seek opportunities in neighboring countries. “They are generally interested in tourism and trade projects,” he said.
Reported by Rana Freifer
Date Posted: Jan 18, 2013
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