Lebanon Businessnews News

Beirut hoteliers enjoy a peak season
Achkar: "the worst is over for the tourism sector"
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The occupancy levels seen in hotels located in the capital until September were the seventh highest among hotels in 21 regional countries, said the study. The same rates were the lowest in Beirut hotels in 2008.

However, Pierre Achkar, head of the Syndicate of Hotel owners in Lebanon (SHHL), said in an interview that the average occupancy rates are even higher than the figures released by the study. Achkar said that “the average occupancy rate reached 76 percent,” according to statistics by the association. He attributed the difference in numbers to that the international study includes only five star hotels while “the association covers hotels of all types.”

According to Ernst & Young, the average rate per available room in Beirut hotels reached $226 over the period, posting the highest year-on-year increase amongst all regional counterparts of 32.1 percent.

But Achkar cited a difference in numbers with the international study. The chairman of the SHHL said that the average rate per available room “reached $119 in five star hotels including Metropolitan, Monore hotel, Holiday Inn hotel and others,” The same rate soars to “$223 in “five star plus” hotels like Phoenicia, and Movenpick,” he said.

Ernst & Young’s study included hotels situated in the capital Beirut exclusively, excluding all other hotels located in other touristic areas. Achkar attributed that to the “low occupancy rates that the hotels outside the capital still suffer from.”

Achkar attributed the low occupancy in hotels outside the capital “to the bad image tourists have in mind about the country.”   He said that the country is still outside the international travel map due to the political instability it suffered from over the last five years.“This means that we have to launch a media campaign to improve Lebanon’s image outside,” he said. “We have to create a logo that will act as the country’s touristic ID,” he said.

Ernst & Young’s study showed that the Revenue per available room (RevPARs) reached $162 in the first nine months of 2009, up from $84 in the same period in 2008. The RevPARs levels ranked Beirut hotels in fifth place after Dubai Beach hotels, hotels in Abu Dhabi, Doha, and Manama.

Achkar said that the hotel sector has started to emerge from the crisis it has been suffering from since 2005. But he said that the industry “still needs at least two years to cover the big losses it endured and start making profits.”

The country, according to Achkar, has become a destination for investment. “Investors are eying real investments and Lebanon has a great potential to attract a large share of the investments if the political and security stability persists,” he said.

Achkar expected the recommencement of many of the multimillion investments that were put on hold in recent years after the formation of the new cabinet. He said that he is familiar with “at least five Lebanese and Gulf-Lebanese hotel investments that will start soon.” 
The SHHL head kept a positive attitude. He said that all indicators show that the “worst is over for the tourism sector."

But he named several steps that should be taken to improve the tourism infrastructure. “The airport should be expanded, the transportation sector needs to be improved, and traffic jams should be reduced,” he said. Most importantly, the government should provide us with the proper infrastructure to attract tourists, mainly “water and electricity,” Achkar concluded.

Date Posted: Dec 10, 2009
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