The World Travel Market

November 06, 2006 04:00 ET

World Travel Market: Lebanon Opens Doors to Tourists

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(CCNMatthews - Nov. 6, 2006) -

ExCeL, London, Monday 6 November

LEBANON is open for tourist business just three months after the first exchanges in the conflict that caused destruction set at $US15billion.

Amazingly, the country that attracted close to one million foreign visitors last year is hoping that the current tourist figures will not fall far short.

Lebanon will make a bold statement of their ambitions by exhibiting at the World Travel Market at ExCeL London from November 6-9 and their delegation will be headed by Tourism Minister Joseph Sarkis, accompanied by the director-general, Nada Sardouk.

Beirut-based Middle East Airlines is a key member of the team coming to this country and UK manager Naima Kassir said: "This shows that confidence in the home market remains high, encouraged in so many ways by the response here 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."

Lebanon suffered 1,200 civilian deaths and 4,000 injuries, with more than one million people displaced and forced to flee to safer areas.

Despite the images of destruction flashed around the globe, the country's tourism infrastructure largely emerged unscathed.

"There are a couple of bridges that are still under repair but no major area of tourism was affected," reported Amine Nasser, general manager of leading Lebanese tour operator Saad Tours.

"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."

Arab nation tourists have been the first to make a return with hotels booked out in the last 10 days of October at the end of Ramadan.

But Mr Nasser conceded that convincing other foreign tourists to come back would be a tougher task. Germany France, the UK and Switzerland were among their top European performers

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

"Others had withdrawn and 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."

Fiona Jeffery, managing director of World Travel Market said: "We are delighted that Lebanon sees its participation as a major part of its recuperation and we are doing everything possible to help them regain tourism business."

Mr. Nasser said: "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."

Other operators exhibiting are Sogetour and Kurban Tours plus 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.

For further information on the above, key concepts and themes during World Travel Market, exhibitor activity and events, please refer to www.wtmlondon.com.

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