Lebanon Businessnews News

Tourism fails to see impact of ‘50-days campaign’
Discounts will remain after the promotional season
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The Ministry of Tourism (MoT) concluded on February 28 its campaign ‘50 days of discounts’, aimed at reviving the tourism sector. The promotional season, which started on January 8, offered special rates for tourists, with up to 50 percent discounts on airline tickets, hotel stays, car rentals, and shopping and leisure destinations.

The campaign failed to increase workflow at restaurants, according to Paul Ariss, Head of the Syndicate of Owners of Restaurants, Cafes, Night-Clubs, and Patisseries: “No increase was spotted in the activity of restaurants as very few foreigners are patronizing diners nowadays.” He said with only a few Arab tourists visiting, restaurants currently rely more on residents. Syrian nationals were noted as the highest spenders during this period, according to Ariss, but still had a minor impact on the sector’s turnover. Ariss said the workflow of most restaurants dropped by around 30 percent throughout the past year.

The campaign has had one positive aspect, according to Ariss: “The promotional season highlighted an efficient and reliable cooperation between the MoT, hotels, restaurants, and the Middle East Airlines (MEA). This cooperation had not been very visible before.”

The commercial sector did not sense the impact of the MoT’s campaign either. Nicolas Chammas, Head of the Beirut Traders Association (BTA), said: “We did not see any improvement in our activity during these 50 days and some retailers have even said the campaign is merely propaganda.” According to Chammas, the absence of Arab tourists had the greatest impact on the retail sector.

Efforts are still ongoing to get Gulf States to remove travel bans they imposed on Lebanon since mid-2012, however no effective results have emerged so far. Mona Fares, Director of the MoT’s Promotion Department, said a rise in Kuwaiti tourists has been reported lately. “Kuwait slightly softened its ban and recently up to seven planes have been arriving from Kuwait each day,” she said. According to Fares, some Arab nationals defied the bans and came here for vacations.

Roger Saad, Sales Manager at the Four Seasons, said the hotel offered 30 percent discounts on its room rates: “Our results during January-February improved by 50 percent compared to the October-November period.” He said Kuwaiti occupants increased during Kuwait’s national vacation (22-28 February). The hotel had an average occupancy of 50 percent throughout the past two months. “We will keep our discounted rates for the coming months, hoping that the situation settles down,” said Saad.

On the other hand, furnished apartments and hotels rated three stars or less saw improved occupancy rates. Bassam Zeidan, General Manager of Midtown Hotel in Hamra (three stars) said the campaign had a positive impact on their business: “The hotel is currently fully occupied, with residents mainly from Syria and Iraq.” Midtown Hotel slashed its room rates to $85, down from between $110 and $260 before, according to Zeidan. “We will keep the same discount rates until the situation settles down,” he said.

Reported by Rana Freifer
Date Posted: Mar 01, 2013
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