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French Version


Lebanon's hotel sector is in dire straits

Current market consists of international press, aid groups

As of Monday the overall hotel occupancy rate in Lebanon hovered around 34 percent, but the Markezia Monroe Suites, the Movenpick, and the Commodore were all at least 70 percent full.

The three hotels now divide the market between them - one characterized not by wealthy Gulf nationals but international press, multinational corporations, and global humanitarian groups.

According to the assistant director of sales and marketing at the Markezia Monroe Suites - the venue of choice for correspondents from Western media outlets - the Markezia's ideal location combined with the decision not to cut rates has been key to surviving the crisis.

"We had 100 percent occupancy for three weeks during the middle of the crisis because we had to accommodate the crews for BBC, CNN and Fox News, said Housni Yaman,

"When we couldn't accommodate crews from [the Italian network] Rai Uno Italy, we recommended that they go to the Movenpick," he said.

The average price of a hotel room in Lebanon has dropped from $160 to $120 a night since the onset of the violence. Like the Monroe Suites, the Meridien Commodore maintained a peak room rate of $135 per night, and saw occupancy rise from 70 percent to 73 percent.

"The journalist market was divided between our hotel, the Movenpick, and the Markezia Monroe suites," said the Commodore's director of sales and marketing, Tarek Ammache.

"It's not smart to drop rates because journalists know what they want. If they want the beach they go to Movenpick, for the location they should go to Monroe Suites."

Ammache said that the hotels that did cut prices drastically have not fared well, adding that he knows of one that is struggling to maintain an occupancy rate of just 7 percent.
http://www.dailystar.com.lb

Since the new market is ephemeral at best, most hotels have offered tour groups reductions of 30-40 percent on commercial tour packages and are organizing promotional campaigns to woo Gulf tourists back to Lebanon in time for religious holidays. Ammache expects occupancy will be low till the end of Ramadan, but hopes to have around 55-65 percent occupancy by October 25.

The Movenpick currently boasts an occupancy rate of 80 percent, the highest in Lebanon, according to Mira Hawa, director of sales and marketing.

"We've hosted a combination of clients since this started and they come and go on a kind of a rotation basis, some will depart to hardship locations and will be replaced by multinationals corporations," said Hawa.

"We've also had loyal clients from jewelry, pharmaceutical, and construction companies return and show confidence in the market."

But other hotels, like the Sheraton Coral Beach Resort, were forced to shut down and are now cautiously trying to find their footing in a much riskier market. The Sheraton's occupancy rate dropped from 98 to 20 percent when the airport was first hit. Since it reopened on Friday only 10 percent of rooms are full. The hotel was evacuated because it was close to airport.

"We are working day by day, and we expect business to trickle back if things stay quiet," said sales and marketing director Halal Hachache.

"On an international level we can't expect leisure travelers right now, but we are trying to target corporate business and promoting spa packages to the local market."

Beirut 22-08-2006
Lysandra Ohrstrom
The Daily Star



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