“We will meet with the Minister of Tourism in the coming few days and share with him a detailed plan with short and medium term execution points in order to face the crisis taking the sector and the whole country by storm,” said Tony Ramy, president of the Lebanese Syndicate of Owners of Restaurants, Cafés, Night-Clubs & Pastries in an exclusive talk with HN.
He added: “In our meeting, we will present our requirements and discuss the potential assistance the ministry could provide at this critical time of our economy.” These requirements will include exemptions and tax adjustments, interest reduction and loan installments among other implementations.
Ramy’s comment followed the official statement released by the Syndicate today, listing the number of institutions that were obliged to cease their operations and dismiss their employees.
According to the statement, 785 F&B companies have closed their doors from September 2019 until the beginning of February 2020. January alone witnessed the closure of 240 institutions.
Mount Lebanon governorate was the most affected with over 50 percent of its F&B businesses shutting down. It was followed by Beirut, with almost 30 percent of ceased business operations, and the North and South Governorates with six percent each. The total number of laid off employees in the sector exceeded 25,000. Many of those who are still employed are on a part time basis or on half salaries, due to low sales figures.
Ramy explained that business owners are obliged to pay high exchange rates (LL2,500 for USD1) to purchase raw materials from suppliers due to the fluctuating Lira. On the other hand, they are not able to change the official Dollar exchange rate of LL 1,515 when it comes to charging customers, without increasing their menu items prices. Thus, the restaurants sector has lost three main factors: Liquidity, purchasing power and the psychological factor.
This is restraining investors from committing to their minimal obligation towards their employees as well as the suppliers, not to mention the hard-to-pay properties lease fees.
However, the statement pointed out that some business owners have made the decision of resisting economic downturn, but the current crisis prompted some to sell their brands abroad to ensure the continuity of their institutions in the local market.
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