Despite looming tension Beirut still popular with Saudi tourists
JEDDAH - With tensions brewing between Israel and Lebanon and the possibility of an Israeli attack on the south of the country similar to what took place in 2006, there are reports that the country’s tourism industry is being negatively affected.
Lebanon’s Minister of Tourism Fadi Abboud recently confirmed that 30 percent of holiday reservations had been canceled over the last few weeks due to the fear of an Israeli attack.
However, in spite of the danger, Beirut remains a popular destination for many Saudi tourists.
Tensions are brewing after a group of Lebanese women, joined by Europeans and journalists, announced they are planning to sail to Gaza to break Israel’s blockade of the Palestinian enclave. Israel recently told the United Nations that it will use “all necessary means” to stop ships from Lebanon from carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.
In a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and to the Security Council, Gabriela Shalev, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, called on the Lebanese government to prevent ships from leaving. These warnings have increased fears that another war may soon break out.
Although it might not be the best time to travel to Lebanon, the threat of war looming has not dampened the spirits of Saudis when it comes to Lebanon.
“Saudi tourists show immense interest in visiting Lebanon as tourists each year. After the war in 2006, everything returned to normal and holiday reservation rates in Beirut was increasing gradually. Holiday bookings to Lebanon are already 100 percent full this year,” said Jalal Hamed, a Saudi employee at Zahid Travel Group.
Saudi Arabian Airlines also confirmed there has been no change in bookings to Lebanon.
“There is no noticeable decrease in the booking rate to Lebanon. Lebanon is considered a favorite destination for many Saudis. If we notice any horrible changes in the political situation of any country, we will stop planned flights temporarily,” said a Saudia official.
Jawahir Al-Hakami, a travel consultant at Shami Holidays, confirmed that a large number of Saudi tourists who want to travel to Beirut are still on the waiting list.
“There is no decrease in the number of flights to Beirut. Actually, we still receive people wanting to make reservations. There are presently no vacancies, as all scheduled flights are full. Some of them refuse to travel to other destinations and have asked us to put them on waiting lists,” said Al-Hakami.