Rita Ghantous is a hospitality aficionado and a passionate writer with over 9 years’ experience in journalism and 5 years experience in the hospitality sector. Her passion for the performance arts and writing, started early. At 10 years old she was praised for her solo performance of the Beatles song “All My Love” accompanied by a guitarist, and was approached by a French talent scout during her school play. However, her love for writing was stronger. Fresh out of school, she became a freelance journalist for Noun Magazine and was awarded the Silver Award Cup for Outstanding Poetry, by The International Library of Poetry (Washington DC). She studied Business Management and earned a Masters degree from Saint Joseph University (USJ), her thesis was published in the Proche-Orient, Études en Management book. She then pursued a career in the hospitality industry but didn’t give up writing, that is why she launched the Four Points by Sheraton Le Verdun Newsletter. Her love for the industry and journalism led her to Hospitality Services - the organizers of the HORECA trade show in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan, as well as Salon Du Chocolat, Beirut Cooking Festival, Whisky Live and other regional shows. She is currently the Publications Executive of Hospitality News Middle East, Taste & Flavors and Lebanon Traveler. It is with ultimate devotion for her magazines that she demonstrates her hospitality savoir-faire.
Established in 1993, Hospitality Services, Lebanon’s leading event management and publishing company opened its doors to welcome exhibitors and visitors to the 26th iteration of HORECA, the country’s biggest hospitality and food service business annual gathering.
The first of six discussion panels on HORECA opening day was titled, Hospitality Vision in Lebanon featuring:
- H.E. Avedis Guidanian, Minister of Tourism, Lebanon
- Tony Ramy, President, Syndicate of Owners of Restaurants, Cafés, Night-Clubs and Pastries, Lebanon
- Pierre Achkar, President, Federation for Tourism and Hotel Association, Lebanon
- Jean Beyrouthy, President, Syndicate of Balnear Tourist Establishments in Lebanon
- Yahya Kassaa, President, Lebanese Franchise Association
What follows are some of the highlights of that panel, which is in collaboration with Hodema consulting services moderated by Nada Alameddine.
AG: This sector remains Lebanon’s most promising despite past difficulties during 2011-2017. However, based on the data we have, 2019 is forecast to limit the losses previously incurred. I also hope and to a degree believe that in the coming couple of years, this sector will return to enjoy the prosperity it once did.
PA: The eight-year slump that the various hospitality establishments have experienced, today sees them at a serious disposition, one that is difficult to break free from despite our desire to do so and the resources available to us. However, the travel ban, which a while back KSA lifted signals great promise. To better achieve this, we urge the local media, politicians and financial institutions to assists, as the growth of the hospitality industry will benefit everyone.
JB: We need to remember that there is great strength in unity and the belief in our ability to once again win-over the regional tourism industry. To achieve this, we need to position Lebanon as an all-year-round touristic destination, not just a summer retreat as has been the case. This can be achieved by mapping-out a host of activities and destinations that offer something to everyone visiting from the region, irrespective how small or lengthy the timeframe may be.
TR: The tourism industry has three main components, the first is internal tourism comprising 50 percent of the revenue. The restaurant sector, during the golden years grew to 25 percent share of the sector, which translated to 10 percent of GDP valued at $8.7 billion. Back then, there were roughly 6,000 F&B outlets, a number that by 2017-18 had doubled. However, the revenue of those establishments fell by 45 percent. Coupled with reduced purchasing power, a travel ban and other challenges, we found ourselves in a very difficult position. I nonetheless am of the firm conviction that together, with the help of various ministries and organizations, we can, based on a new plan for the tourism industry that we have laid-out, work together on revitalizing and even growing the sector, which has suffered far too much for far too long.
YK: Based on data available to us, the tourism industry is the one sector that is promising growth. Compared to a 2012 to 2018 benchmark of that sector, we witnessed a decrease of 4.6 percent. The hospitality sector, pertaining to dollar-spend, has fallen 6 percent. These figures, however, should not be alarming when compared to the 53 percent decrease in the franchise sector of luxury items and 46 percent decrease in the clothing category. In that respect, tourism is doing well. As for Brand Lebanon, last year, a reputed British rating agency, listed us in the 95th place over 100. That result contradicted peoples’ view based on a survey we conducted during Expo Paris this year with 95 percent of respondents rating Lebanon as a highly sought-after destination with tourism, food, creativity and emotion being words used most. This brings me to the point that what we still lack is the confidence in our ability to affect change, which I am confident, we will so long as we work toward realizing a shared vision.Add to Favorites