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Beirut airport arrivals drop as Westerners stay away

Visitor numbers to Lebanon for the first 10 months of 2023 were up 21% on 2022 but there is currently 'no significant traffic' from the West Visit Lebanon
Visitor numbers to Lebanon for the first 10 months of 2023 were up 21% on 2022 but there is currently 'no significant traffic' from the West
  • Daily arrival rate at Beirut down 4%
  • Lebanese diaspora continue to travel
  • ‘No significant traffic’ from West

The daily arrival rate at Lebanon’s only functioning international airport is down by 4 percent year on year in the first quarter of this year, according to Marwan Haber, the head of Middle East Airline’s (MEA) commercial division.

Speaking at the Horeca hospitality conference in Beirut on Tuesday Haber said 95 percent of arrivals were due to visits from the Lebanese diaspora. He said the drop in overall inbound tourism, while lower than initially feared, was due to the outbreak of fighting on the southern border.

“We do not live in denial,” Haber said, saying that MEA had “no significant traffic” from Western markets.



The vast majority of arrivals are Lebanese nationals, Haber said, followed by Iraqis, Syrians and Jordanians. Arrivals from Western markets are “largely just NGOs” [non-governmental organisations].

Since October 18 the British Foreign Office has advised UK nationals against all travel to Lebanon, whilst the US State Department urges US citizens to “reconsider travel”, due to risks of escalation in fighting between Hezbollah and Israel. 

On Friday the French foreign ministry warned against visiting Lebanon and asked for the family members of French diplomats to be evacuated.

While flight bookings are currently down to between 50 percent and 60 percent, Haber said interest was “increasing”.

“If these last holidays were anything to go by, by Christmas I believe it will reach 100 percent.” 

Visitor numbers for 2023 were their highest since an economic crisis hit in 2019, recording 1.7 million, a 14 percent increase on 2022.

Most of this increase came in the summer months when numbers of visitors were a third higher than those in 2023.

Across the region the tourism sector’s worst fears have not come to pass.

Egypt also saw a decline in visitor numbers following the outbreak of conflict but reported a record high of 14.9 million inbound tourists for 2023, just off its target of 15 million.

Egypt’s tourism minister Ahmed Issa reported that visitor numbers have already bounced back in 2024, with a 5 percent year-on-year increase during the first 40 days of the year.

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