What war? Lebanon launching tourism campaign ahead of 'promising summer'

Hotels in southern Lebanon are incurring heavy losses due to Hezbollah's ongoing campaign against Israel, but the rest of the country says tourism isn't affected, and say a 'promising summer' lies ahead

Whether it's an attempt to disconnect from the turmoil in southern Lebanon or a desperate bid to salvage summer tourism and stave off further economic decline, the Lebanese Ministry of Tourism launched its 2024 summer campaign last week with the slogan "Embark on a Journey." This dazzling campaign, featuring breathtaking footage from across Lebanon, was unveiled at a festive event held at a yacht club in Beirut.
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ליאור בן ארי פינת יא אללה קמפיין תיירות ב לבנון
ליאור בן ארי פינת יא אללה קמפיין תיירות ב לבנון
Campaign banner encouraging tourism
Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Lebanese Tourism Minister Walid Nassar were in attendance at the event. The summer travel campaign comes at a time when Western and Arab countries are issuing travel warnings for Lebanon and urging their citizens to leave the country, while hotels in southern Lebanese villages bordering Israel have been deserted for months due to the ongoing conflict. Many other hotels in relatively safer areas of southern Lebanon have been repurposed as reception centers for displaced individuals from the border.
According to Lebanese Tourism Minister Walid Nassar, the "Embark on a Journey" campaign is meant to be a "journey of resilience and resistance to remain in the homeland." The star of the campaign launch was Yasmina Zaytoun, the Lebanese beauty queen who also clinched the title of Miss World runner-up in a competition held in India last March. Zaytoun, originally from the village of Shuba in southern Lebanon, exclaimed at the launch: "Tourism is a very important component of Lebanon. This year is a perfect time to launch the campaign. This is my second year with the Ministry of Tourism, and I am very excited to see the campaign unfold."
The musical production and direction of the official campaign clip were entrusted to directors Karim Al-Rahbani and Omar Al-Rahbani, the next generation of the renowned Lebanese artist family. The clip features a new arrangement of a song originally sung by Lebanese singer and actress Ronza. Karim Al-Rahbani revealed to the media at the campaign launch that he discovered Yasmina Zaytoun's acting talent during the filming.
When asked at the campaign launch what she would say to those claiming "Lebanon is at war and it's not worth coming," Zaytoun confidently replied: "We Lebanese do not break. We are certainly experiencing difficult circumstances. We all suffer, and we all hear and see many stories that touch us as human beings. But we do not stop, no matter what happens."
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ליאור בן ארי פינת יא אללה קמפיין תיירות ב לבנון
ליאור בן ארי פינת יא אללה קמפיין תיירות ב לבנון
Enjoying an outdoors screening in Lebanon
Since winning the title of Lebanese beauty queen and Miss World runner-up, Zaytoun has become a beloved figure in the country. She works closely with Tourism Minister Walid Nassar and has previously met with Prime Minister Mikati and Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib, who even granted her a special passport to facilitate her numerous travels and thanked her for being "Lebanon's ambassador to the world." At the launch of the new tourism campaign, the Lebanese Tourism Minister praised her, saying she "represents the intelligent, generous, loyal, noble and beautiful Lebanese Arab woman." Footage from the event shows her sitting alongside the dignitaries.

'We are a people who want to live'

Mikati also spoke at the launch, emphasizing the Lebanese people's desire to live despite the harsh conditions. "We are a people who want to live," the prime minister said. "In the past two days, I visited the south, met with military officers and soldiers, and visited students at exam centers, and I saw that they chose to participate. We hear calls from countries urging their citizens not to visit Lebanon. Even some of those who made that decision, deep down, want to come to Lebanon. Arabs and foreigners love Lebanon, and we love them. I am confident that we will reach a solution in the coming days."
In recent days, Mohammed Raad, chairman of Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc in Lebanon, angered the Lebanese by criticizing those who "want to rest, go to amusement parks and the beach, and live their lives" while the war continues.
In Lebanon, there is still hope that the summer season will economically help the country. The Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, associated with Hezbollah, criticized the government in June, claiming the government is not preparing for war and that some are ignoring threats in favor of the tourism season to avoid panic. Official sources in Lebanon have stated in interviews in recent weeks that there is no significant impact on tourism, which is hard to believe when looking at the images of deserted hotels in southern Lebanon.
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ליאור בן ארי פינת יא אללה קמפיין תיירות ב לבנון
ליאור בן ארי פינת יא אללה קמפיין תיירות ב לבנון
'Discover the charm of Beirut'
A source in the Lebanese Ministry of Tourism recently told the Qatari newspaper Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that tourism is on the verge of a "promising summer that might be better than previous years, but this depends on the conflict not expanding." Lebanese Minister of Economy Amin Salam claimed in recent months that there is a significant impact on the industry, with a 75% decline, but the Minister of Tourism denied these figures.
An article in Asharq Al-Awsat a few days ago reported that, while the city of Tyre decided to continue its tourism activities as usual, other towns in the south are suffering huge losses in tourism. The manager of one of the resorts told the newspaper that occupancy had dropped by more than 90%, and many places in southern Lebanon decided not to open this summer to avoid ending up in the red.
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