TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What is the current shape of Lebanon's hospitality industry?
CAROLINE CHEMALY WAKIM: Due to the geographical state of Lebanon, and to the stability in its security, the hospitality sector has not been in a noticeable decrease.
[Despite] what happened in the past years, and what is happening in the countries around us, [Lebanon has seen an increase in business by minimum 20 percent in terms of tourism compared to 2016].
[This is due] to the fact that a new president has been elected, trust and safety in [the country has been restored].
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: Where do your guests arrive from and what are their expectations?
CAROLINE CHEMALY WAKIM: During the past years, the tourism sector had been counting on the Iraqi and Syrian markets, even during the unstable period we have been through, due to the fact that Lebanon was still a safer and more secure country.
Since the elections of the new president, we have noticed an increase in the reservations from GCC countries. Guests are always expecting safety, clean facilities, and a variety of packages with reasonable prices.
Also, they always ask for safe transportation with good prices, adding [...] that we are a multilingual [nation], with a top innate hospitality spirit, which makes all communication during a visit to Lebanon extremely easy.
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What makes Lebanon a unique destination?
CAROLINE CHEMALY WAKIM: Lebanon is known as The Pearl of the Middle East, the centre of fashion and exhibitions, [along with] the four seasons we have [...] our rich history, our reach and unlimited open nightlife.
[Lebanon is also] one of the only countries in the Middle East with top medical services and professionalism.
[We have] created a variety in our tourism sector, we offer all kind of tourism, [such as] ski holidays, medical tourism, ecotourism, archaeological tourism, weekend tourism and business tourism.
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What is being done to assist in the growth of tourism in Lebanon?
CAROLINE CHEMALY WAKIM: The Ministry of Tourism is doing its best in coordination with the Syndicate of Hotels Owners, general security, and with all the ministries directly and indirectly involved, to improve the segment in all its ways.
[This includes] promoting the [...] variety of [year-round] tourism, offering cheap inbound packages with tickets and hotels nights, developing the tourist sites as well as facilitating the reservations and access and displaying the tourism police on all our sites.
Actually, we are promoting all types of segments, we are not filtering any, in order to reach our goals.
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What does the future hold for tourism in Lebanon?
CAROLINE CHEMALY WAKIM: The tourism sector in Lebanon is very promising, it was for the past years representing 70 percent of the GDP, and especially now that we have stability and a new government that is seriously working to empower this sector, we are expecting a 50 percent increase [minimum] on our reservations for the coming months.
We are working on strategies and packages that are targeting all types of markets and all types of tourism.