After the Saudi Kingdom lifted on Wednesday its longstanding warning against its citizens traveling to Beirut, Lebanon’s Tourism Ministry announced taking a series of measures and steps to encourage Saudi tourists’ return to the country.
“Lebanon does not need to promote itself for Saudi and Gulf tourists. Instead, we are working today on removing all issues that bothered Gulf tourists in the past, when some institutions abused them by raising their bills,” Tourism Minister Avedis Guidanian told Asharq Al-Awsat on Friday.
He asserted that his ministry took all necessary measures and steps to stop such exploitation.
“Since 2017, we established a hotline for tourists to report on any troubles,” Guidanian said.
The Minister predicts that the Saudi decision should produce a very positive effect on the tourism sector and the overall economic sector in Lebanon.
“Gulf tourists, in general, and Saudis, in particular, are considered the backbone of Lebanon’s tourism,” he said, adding that the sector should witness a boom, given that the number of Saudi tourists has already increased during the 2018 end of year holidays.
The syndicate of restaurant, café and club owners said that 7,750 Saudis had visited Lebanon during that period.
On Wednesday, Saudi ambassador to Lebanon Walid Al Bukhari said the Kingdom had dropped its 2010 warning “due to the absence of security concerns that led us to warn our citizens from traveling [to Lebanon] and after the assurances that we heard.”
Lebanon witnessed a major boom in tourism in 2010 with the entry of 1.168 million tourists to the country.
Local businesses are hopeful that with the change in Saudi policy, tourists would go back to what it was in the old days.
Head of the Syndicate of Hotel Owners in Lebanon Pierre Ashkar told Asharq Al-Awsat that the change in the Saudi policy would greatly benefit Lebanon’s economy.
“Gulf tourists enjoy a spending power and their stay in hotels is the longest compared to US and European tourists,” he said.