|Lebanese tourism jumps 25 percent during 2004 (Daily Star)
|Sector helps give healthy boost to Lebanese economy
The number of tourists visiting Lebanon increased by over a quarter in 2004, as visitors continue to flood back to the country after its 15-year civil war, officials said Monday.
A record 1.28 million tourists visited Lebanon in 2004 compared with 1.02 million in 2003, the tourism ministry said, showing that the country is winning back its pre-war reputation as one of the most sought-after destinations in the Middle East. In fact, the year 2003 was the first time tourist arrivals exceeded the one million mark since 1974.
The number of tourists reported an average growth of 10.5 percent per year over the 1998-2003 period, positively contributing to aggregate value added over a period where real sector indicators reported low or negative growth.
Arabs form the majority of visitors, preferring to holiday in Lebanon rather than the United States, where they feel unwelcome after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, or Europe, where the high value of the euro is a strong deterrent.
The distribution of tourists by country of origin for 2004 shows that Arab countries accounted for 42.6 percent of aggregate visitors, followed by Europe with 26.5 percent, Asia with 13.6 percent, the Americas with 11.9 percent, Oceania with 3.7 percent and Africa with 1.6 percent.
The number of tourists amounted to 84,542 in December 2004, an increase of 20.8 percent from 69,900 visitors in November, 2004 and up by 15.1 percent from 73,438 in December 2003. As for the annual figures, Arab tourists accounted for the largest number of tourists visiting Lebanon in December, constituting 33.5 percent of the total, followed by European visitors with 30.1 percent. The December results are also 40 percent higher than the average of 60,381 for the same month of the 2000-2003 period, suggesting a continued improvement in tourism activity compared to previous years.
Lebanon boasts a range of attractions, including the Roman remains of Baalbek, historic old coastal towns, as well as clubbing and shopping in its reinvigorated capital Beirut.
It is also one of the few countries in the region able to offer challenging and reliable skiing opportunities in its mountains.
The tourism sector, along with Arab investment, have provided a welcome boost to the Lebanese economy, which enjoyed 5 percent growth in 2004.
The Daily Star