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French Version

UN resolution could harm Lebanon's tourism industry

Country could see fewer visitors

Lebanon's tourism industry might show signs of strengths, especially after a successful summer season, but its weaknesses could emerge if the UN Security Council passes a resolution to sanction the country for not having conducted what it calls a fair and democratic presidential election.

The latest statistics from the Tourism Ministry show that Lebanon continued its unprecedented increase in tourism activity, with a year-on-year increase of 31.42 percent during the first eight months of 2004, reaching 943,846 tourists.

"When the September figures will be released, the country would have hosted over a million tourists," said general director of the Tourism Ministry, Nada Sardouq. "By the end of the year ... we are expecting to host 1.3 million visitors."

However, the expectations of the Tourism Ministry, as well as those of the tourism industry, could be trampled if the UN-Security Council votes for a resolution that would effectively sanction Lebanon.

The yearly tourist arrival increases, which began after Sept.11, 2001, were attributed to the need for Arabs to vacation in a country where they would not fear discrimination. And Lebanon, with its unique lifestyle, nightlife and sea and mountain resorts, was a natural choice - even attracting more and more Europeans. Yet, without Lebanon's newfound stability, the choice of Arabs and Europeans would have shifted toward another, more secure country.

Take as an example the U.S.-led war on Iraq that occurred last year.

During the months of March, April and May of 2003 - when the coalition forces prepared and launched their attack - tourist arrivals in Lebanon dropped by 32 percent, 23 percent and 5 percent respectively. Lebanon's hotel industry was struck even harder, with many cancelled and postponed room reservations and conferences.

The result: Most hotels forced their employees to take unpaid vacations; restaurants stopped opening; pubs closed down and commercial neighborhoods no longer prospered.

Sardouq dismissed the idea that UN-backed sanctions could effect the tourism industry, comparing them to a "cloud in the summertime." But she did admit that if the sanctions are implemented, there could be a regression in the number of European tourists arriving to Lebanon.

Beirut,09 13 2004
Tarek El Zein
The Daily Star
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