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Lebanon hopes summer is promising for business — minister

By AFP - Jun 22,2022 - Last updated at Jun 22,2022

A welcoming billboard is seen along the airport road in Lebanon's capital Beirut on Wednesday following a campaign by the Tourism Ministry to replace the pictures of political figures with images of natural sites as the country is trying to draw more tourists (AFP photo)

BEIRUT — Lebanon's economy should receive a welcome injection of more than $3 billion, thanks to a rebound in tourist arrivals over the summer, the tourism minister said on Wednesday.

Lebanon defaulted on its debt in 2020, the local currency has lost around 90 per cent of its value on the black market, and the UN now considers four in five Lebanese to be poor.

While soaring inflation is ravaging households with incomes in Lebanese pounds, the informal exchange rate makes prices attractive to most tourists.

"This summer is promising. We expect more than a million tourists and income of $3-3.5 billion during this summer season," Minister Walid Nassar said in an interview.

Reservations show that three quarters of the arrivals will be Lebanese nationals from the diaspora, he said.

"The remaining 25 per cent are foreigners hailing mostly from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Gulf countries," Nassar added.

The diaspora had shunned the traditional summer homecoming in recent years, with a deadly 2020 Beirut port blast and biting shortages compounding pandemic-linked restrictions.

The sector had been one of the pillars of Lebanon's economy, bringing in around $10 billion annually.

Global tourism is roaring back to life after the COVID-19 pandemic, and Lebanon has been keen to draw tourists and their cash dollars.

Despite crumbling infrastructure and massive electricity shortages, the tourism ministry launched a large PR campaign to promote the country as a destination.

With central bank coffers critically depleted and foreign aid hinging on reforms, a summer tourism windfall could buy Lebanon more time.

The country's top political and security brokers "are aware of how important it is for this summer season to be a success", Nassar said.

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