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Lebanon puts on a brave face at World Travel Market
Posted on: 10/30/2006 9:26:00 AM

Lebanon is returning to World Travel Market at ExCeL London (Monday 6 – Thursday 9 November) this year with a stand that will be twice as large as last year’s and with a stronger delegation. Fiona Jeffery , managing director of World Travel Market said: "The strength of the country’s presence at ExCeL London underlines the tourism authority’s determination to win back the confidence of international travellers following the month-long conflict this summer."

"We are delighted that Lebanon sees its participation at World Travel Market as a major part of its recuperation and we are doing everything possible to help them regain its tourism business."

This includes a press conference which will be held in association with the World Tourism Organisation on the opening day.

According to one of the key organisers of Lebanon’s World Travel Market delegation, there was very little hesitation over the decision to carry on with plans to exhibit.

"We had booked before the conflict started but during the war everything was put on hold," said Amine Nasser, general manager of leading Lebanese tour operator Saad Tours, which is handling the logistics of the country’s World Travel Market plans.

"After the war I contacted the Minister of Tourism and pointed out that World Travel Market is one of the best tools to reassure people that everything is going back to normal, and it was quickly decided that we would continue."

Tourism Minister Joseph Sarkis, accompanied by the Lebanon Ministry of Tourism’s director-general, Nada Sardouk, will head the Lebanon delegation, which will include tour operators such as Saad Tours, Sogetour and Kurban Tours along with a strong presence from hotels. These will include Crowne Plaza Beirut, Grand Hotel Kadri, Holiday Inn-Dunes Hotel, Hotel Le Bristol, Intercontinental Le Vendome, Mountain Resort & Spa Mzaar, Phonecia Hotels, Lancaster Beirut Hotel, Monroe Hotels and Movenpick Hotel & Resort Beirut.

Beirut-based Middle East Airlines is another key member of the delegation and UK manager Naima Kassir said: “This delegation shows that confidence in the home market remains high, encouraged in so many ways by the response in the UK and elsewhere by tour operators and other travel interests.

"We know that Lebanon can yet again return to its rightful place as a Mediterranean tourist destination and this is very much the message that we will be putting out at World Travel Market."

Mr Nasser said that in spite of the images of destruction that were shown around the world during the conflict, the country’s tourism infrastructure was left largely untouched.

"There are a couple of bridges that are still under repair but no major area of tourism was affected," said Mr Nasser. "The vast majority of our tourism-related businesses also retained their staff during the trouble so everything has been maintained and is ready for tourists."

"In Beirut, the only damage was to one particular southern residential suburb and the rest of the city is untouched. Even Tyre, the largest city in the south, has escaped without damage."

Tourists from Arab nations have been the first to make a return to Lebanon with hotels booked out in the last 10 days of October following the end of Ramadan but Mr Nasser conceded that convincing other foreign tourists to come back was a harder task.

He said, though, that some tour operators had contacted him even during the height of the latest troubles to say that they would be keeping Lebanon in their 2007 programmes but others had withdrawn.

"This is why we want to come to World Travel Market," he said. "We have Christmas and New Year seasons to look forward to in the immediate future and we will be in London to tell the industry that Lebanon is safe and that our tourism infrastructure is intact."

Lebanon attracted close to one million foreign visitors last year, with Germany France, the UK and Switzerland among the top European performers. And while Mr Nasser does not believe that foreign tourism arrivals this year will reach last year’s total, he said he believes it will not be far short.

The Lebanese Ministry of Tourism and associated exhibitors will be on a prominent island stand at World Travel Market this year. (by Theodore Koumelis - Traveldailynews.com)

 

 



 

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