While Lebanon’s economic and political woes have been well publicized, its rich hospitality offering has managed to navigate even the most challenging waters. We spoke with Minister of Tourism for Lebanon, H.E. Walid Nassar, to hear what the ministry has accomplished in 2022 and what’s on the horizon for the small Mediterranean country.
What has the MoT achieved in the past year?
As the ministry, we have forged partnerships with the private sector at all levels. We consider this to be of utmost importance: supporting syndicates — including the newly established syndicate of guesthouses — encouraging private-sector initiatives and empowering tourism-related projects.
We have also focused on decentralization by creating 30 offices across Lebanon. These destination management organizations (DMOs) have been launched in partnership with the private sector and local municipalities to promote tourism in individual regions.
Furthermore, we revamped the Conseil National du Tourisme, a non-governmental body that has lain dormant for over 12 years. For the first time in its history, a woman was elected vice president by council members.
In addition, Lebanon became the 35th country to obtain membership to the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe (EPA). This was an important milestone, reaffirming our status on the world map as a cultural destination. The four routes comprise: wine, Phoenician, Ummayad and olive tree.
Of course, there were seasonal campaigns, including “Ahla Bhal Talleh” (Welcome to Lebanon) in summer 2022 and “Eida al Shatwiyeh” (Come again in winter), which we just launched .
In short, it’s been a busy year!
From a tourism perspective, how optimistic are you about winter 2022?
Well, I am very optimistic. We projected 600,000 people would come to Lebanon between November 2022 and January 2023 when we made our initial forecasts. However, at the end of November 2022, 207,000 arrivals had already been recorded. December will be much busier, and there will be considerable traffic in January, so we expect the visitor figure to be closer to a million. Needless to say, we anticipate a promising period, especially for hotels, restaurants and hospitality-related services.
What will the MoT be working on in 2023?
We have plenty of projects in the pipeline, starting with a new identity, branding and exciting campaigns.
We also need to get the 30 DMOs fully functioning and create a network, which we will do by installing software and a system to connect them.
Ultimately, our role in 2023 will be to continue engaging and empowering organizations and NGOs. Working together is key, and we look forward to building lasting partnerships.