by Dana Halawi
BEIRUT, Dec. 22 (Xinhua) -- Pierre Ashkar, Syndicate of Hotel Owners in Lebanon, said that the country's hotels will witness full occupancy this festive season.
"Occupancy in Beirut's hotels will surpass 90 percent while those in the mountains will be fully reserved this festive season," he told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.
Ashkar said that the hotel sector will thrive this month despite the absence of a government in Lebanon and the latest Israeli threats following Israel's discovery of tunnels allegedly dug by Hezbollah into northern Israel.
"The Lebanese people do not know very much the worth of their country. Lebanon is very much appreciated by tourists ... we have great nightlife, an attractive lifestyle and a natural beauty that have attracted tourists over the years," he said.
Caretaker Tourism Minister Avedis Guidanian previously told Xinhua that the number of tourists from Europe hiked by 30 percent in 2018 compared with that of 2010, the year witnessing the tourist arrival peak in Lebanon at 2.17 million.
He also noted that tourists from America and Latin America soared by 45 percent while those from Arab countries and the Gulf dropped by 40 percent compared with 2010.
According to Ashkar, Arab tourists used to reserve Lebanon's hotels for at least 10 days during holidays while other nationalities came for only about three days.
"This made a great difference in terms of spending," he said. "When Arabs come for 10 days, other touristic services such as restaurants and car rentals benefit more from their presence."
Last November, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait warned their citizens against traveling to Lebanon because of a Lebanese-Saudi crisis caused by Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri's controversial resignation in Riyadh which he rescinded soon after.
According to Ashkar, compared with other nationalities, Gulf tourists spend the most money in Lebanon .
He added that Gulf tourists will most probably return to Lebanon once the government is formed.
"Many of these tourists have houses in Lebanon that are currently vacant and I am sure that they will be encouraged to come back once the government is formed," he said.
Lebanon succeeded in holding the first parliamentary elections in nine years, but it still faces the challenge of overcoming all hurdles hindering cabinet formation.
Ashkar said that while Lebanese hotels will be fully occupied in the few coming days, the hotels did not make much efforts in investing to host well-known artists for New Year festivities because they were worried about people's reaction amid the political instability.
"Well-known Lebanese artists will throw their parties in Turkey, Egypt and Dubai," he said.