Salam, Pharaon to Lure Back Arab Tourists to Lebanon

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Tourism Minister Michel Pharaon said he would accompany Prime Minister Tammam Salam in his tour to lure back Arab tourists to Lebanon after a steady decline in their numbers in the past years.

The tourism “sector lately witnessed a sort of movement after Turkish and Egyptian and even Kuwaiti citizens visited Lebanon during the Easter holidays,” Pharaon said.

“This movement will be accompanied by a plan set up by the ministry to assess the new stage,” he told pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat published on Friday.

Salam announced Wednesday that he planned to tour some Arab countries to urge Arabs to visit Lebanon.

Pharaon expected a promising tourism season this summer even if there are constant fears of security shocks due to the repercussions of the Syrian crisis.

“The government and the ministry are seeking to regain the confidence of tourists and investors in Lebanon,” he said.

Lebanon “lost this confidence three years ago,” Pharaon told the newspaper about the toppling of ex-PM Saad Hariri’s government in 2011 and the formation of former Premier Najib Miqati’s cabinet.

He described Miqati’s government as unbalanced, saying it struck the concept of national partnership, creating a confidence crisis with Arab and Western countries.

The number of tourists also began to decline after Lebanon became severely affected by the Syrian crisis following the involvement of Hizbullah in the war in the neighboring country.

A security plan implemented by the armed forces mainly in the northern city of Tripoli and the eastern Bekaa valley has so far shown its success with the arrest of dozens of gunmen and suspects involved in terrorist activities.

Pharaon admitted that the tourism sector is in crisis after the number of visitors dropped from 2.3 million in 2010 to 1.3 million in 2013.

But he stressed that Salam’s government has “strong foundations” and its members have agreed on imposing “political and security calm.”

“There is no doubt that (efforts) to regain confidence in Lebanon would take some time but … all governments and embassies are looking positively to the new stage that Lebanon has entered,” he said.

Pharaon hoped their new approach would lead to the encouragement of their citizens to travel to Lebanon.

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