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Ramlet_Baida beach
Ramlet el Baida’s free beach in Beirut, Lebanon

Europeans topped the list of foreign tourists to Lebanon in June this year, new statistics show. According to figures released by Civil Aviation, French visitors ranked first among the Europeans and their number was up by 7.7 percent to 11,739 compared to the same month last year.

“German arrivals to Lebanon increased by 25.47 percent to 7,270 while British tourists dropped by 24.15 percent to 4,255 in June 2016 compared to the same period last year,” the statement by Lebanese ministry of Tourism  said.

Americans followed Europeans at 27.25 percent of visitors.

“Americans topped the list of arrivals coming from the American continent in June 2016 compared to June 2015, with an increase of 24.27 percent to 21,991, followed by Canadians, whose numbers increased by 6.03 percent to 12,895,” the statement added.

“Brazilians came third … with an increase of 25.04 percent to 2,247,” the statement added.

Arab tourists to Lebanon constituted 19.93 percent of total tourists in June, with Iraqi nationals leading the way, according to the statement.

But the number of Iraqis who came to Lebanon in June fell by 0.87 percent to 14,081.

“Iraqis were followed by Jordanians, whose numbers dropped by 22.15 percent to 5,790, and Egyptians, whose numbers saw a 33.31 percent drop to 3,705.”

Arab Gulf nationals, who used to constitute the bulk of foreign tourists six years ago, have avoided spending the summer season in Lebanon, following their governments’ travel advisories. The advisories were issued as a result of Hezbollah’s verbal  attacks against the Gulf  . The attacks prompted the GCC counties to label Hezbollah as a terrorist group . The Arab League followed GCC’s action and also labeled the Iranian backed Hezbollah militant group a terrorist organization.

The number of Saudi nationals visiting Lebanon in June dropped by a massive 47.71 percent to just 1,969, according to the figures.

In the first six months of 2016, the overall number of passengers arriving through Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport increased by 7.7 percent to 723,105, compared to the same period last year, the statement also added.

According to analysts “the bulk of the visitors from Europe, Canada, USA and Australia are Lebanese expatriates . If it wasn’t for the Lebanese expats most businesses in Lebanon would have been shut down , and the economy would have collapsed”.

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