Domestic holiday destinations gaining popularity in Lebanon

Domestic holiday destinations gaining popularity in Lebanon

Beirut: The ongoing coronavirus pandemic and a shortage of US dollars have prompted many Lebanese people to turn to domestic destinations for holidays instead of travelling abroad.

"Reservations in our establishment started early this summer as people are hesitant to travel due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and the complications of doing several PCR tests when travelling from Lebanon to foreign destinations," said Najla Ammouri, owner of Abdelli Terraces, a small hotel located in Lebanon's northern city of Batroun.

Ammouri said that her place is fully booked until mid-August despite the slight increase in rooms' prices compared to previous years, Xinhua news agency reported.

"We made a slight increase to our rooms' prices to be able to raise our employees' salaries amid the collapse in the local currency. However, we are not profiting much so as to encourage the Lebanese to explore new places in their beautiful country," Ammouri explained.

Nouhad Touma, manager at Beit Jedde, a guest house located in Mtein in Mount Lebanon, told Xinhua that the US dollar shortage has prompted youngsters to stay in the country and explore new places.

"We are fully booked during the weekends in the months of July, August and September," Touma said.

For his part, Elias Lakkis, front desk agent at Mist Hotel in Ehden, told Xinhua that his hotel has employed additional people for the summer season to be able to serve an increasing number of customers.

"The Lebanese are hesitant to travel with the spread of COVID-19 all over the world, so they have been turning to local hotels in mountainous areas during this summer," he said.

Lakkis said that the past winter has also seen an increasing demand on rooms at his hotel which was unusual in previous years.

Lebanon has been facing a shortage in US dollars, causing a collapse to the local currency and a devaluation of salaries by around 90 per cent which reduced their purchasing power to unprecedented levels.

Moreover, the shortage has prompted banks to stop withdrawals from US dollar accounts while limiting withdrawals in Lebanese pound to specific amounts.

This crisis has shifted people's interest from visiting popular tourist destinations in summer such as Turkey, Greece and Cyprus to local places.

Ferial Abdo, a teacher whose salary does not exceed 2.5 million Lebanese pounds ($152), told Xinhua that she used to travel to islands in Turkey every summer by paying around $500, as her salary was equivalent to around $1,650 dollars per month prior to the local currency's collapse, but she is no longer able to travel abroad.

"My friends and I have decided to go to a hotel in the north for a couple of nights. That's the only holiday I can afford for now," Abdo said.

Pierre Ashkar, president of the Syndicate of Hotels Owners in Lebanon, told Xinhua that 750,000 Lebanese used to travel to nearby islands for summer vacation but they have now shifted to local destinations as their deposits are stuck in banks and their salaries lost values.

He added that 750,000 Lebanese expats in the Gulf countries and Africa also visit Lebanon every summer.

Ashkar added that hotels outside Beirut have been witnessing a remarkable increase in demand as most of the big ones in the city have closed after being destroyed by the Port blasts on August 4, 2020.

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