Lebanon’s tourism to see promising reboung for summer 2023: report

Lebanon Economy
2023-05-09 | 04:25
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Lebanon’s tourism to see promising reboung for summer 2023: report
Lebanon’s tourism to see promising reboung for summer 2023: report

Amid an “ambiance” that heralds the 2023 summer season, a good number of tourists and expatriates, estimated at around one million and 200 tourists, in return for a return of $3 billion, as expected by the caretaker Minister of Tourism, Walid Nassar, which will stir the stagnant waters of the economy, even for a short period of two months, in light of the enthusiasm of its owners to expand their investments and seize the opportunity to make profits that they missed in previous years.  

This article was originally published in and translated from Lebanese newspaper Nidaa al-Watan.  

In keeping with this expected “event” from the owners of tourism establishments who dream of Lebanon returning to the tourist map, there are restaurants that are recovering relatively, despite the growing horror of the rolling crises economically, financially, and socially.   

Some restaurant owners open new branches, while others reopen those that were closed, either as a result of the financial collapse in the country that began in 2019 or because of the Beirut port explosion in 2020.  

Nidaa al-Watan conducted a regional tour of restaurants that are witnessing the opening of new establishments, and it became clear that Lebanese investors still believe in the return of the old days, with reliance on the return of the wealthy Lebanese, estimated at between 20 and 30 percent, to stay up late and enjoy the good bite and the advantage of the diversity of restaurants in Lebanon.   

They are also counting on the summer season, which restores their spirit and constitutes the “oxygen” they need to continue and expand their investments so that they will achieve profits, albeit less than the period before the crisis.  

In a meeting with the President of the Syndicate of Owners of Restaurants, Cafes, Nightclubs, and Pastries in Lebanon, Tony Ramy has put Nidaa al-Watan in the picture of what is happening in the sector.   

In preparation for the season, “more than 250 tourist facilities are being opened and reopened (hotels, guest houses, tourist resorts, restaurants, nightclubs, and cafes nationwide), in addition to the reopening of major nightclubs in downtown Beirut after they were closed due to the August 4, 2020 explosion.”   

According to Ramy these tourist establishments, particularly the restaurant establishments, are distributed regionally as follows:  

25 percent of new investments in Beirut, specifically in Mar Mikhael, Gemmayzeh, Hamra, and Downtown.  

50 percent of the new tourist and restaurant establishments will open in Mount Lebanon, Batroun, Anfeh in the north, Broumana, Jounieh, Sidon, and Tyre.  

In Ramy’s opinion: “Instead of crawling towards the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to collect $3 billion, if today a president and a state project are elected, we can bring $10 billion into the country.”  

And compared to the period before the financial crisis that began at the end of 2019, “the number of establishments that dealt with food and drink was 8,500,” according to Ramy.  

However, with the return of the tourism movement to the country, the dollarization of bills, the increase in the number of visitors to restaurants, and the opening of new restaurants, “the number of establishments that deal with food and drink has risen again to about 5,000 cafes, restaurants, nightclubs, and Arabic sweets shops and snacks,” as he confirmed.  

Pointing out that about 180,000 Lebanese went to Turkey in the summer of last year, and this year it is expected that no Lebanese will go to Turkey, just as a number of Lebanese expatriates chose Greece to spend the summer vacation, and it is expected that they will change their direction towards Lebanon.  

Regarding the number of workers in tourist and restaurant facilities, he said: “Their number before 2019 was about 150,000, and 50,000 students work in seasons, but after the crisis, the number decreased to 80, then 70,000 before it rose again to 100,000, knowing that 50,000 workers Today, they work in the restaurant sector alone, which constitutes about 50 percent of the workers in tourism establishments.  

As for the share of foreign labor, which was large before the financial crisis, Ramy indicated that “tourist establishments are looking for quality, relying on Lebanese labor, but some “tourist shops,” as he called them, rely on foreign labor for a period of two or three months.   

The number of restaurant goers is concentrated during the weekend on Saturday and Sunday and during the seasons for a period of 80 or 90 days, which constitutes an “oxygen” dose for tourist institutions.  

Additionally, the price that is charged today per person ranges in a Lebanese restaurant between 20 and 30 dollars, and 50 dollars as a maximum.  

Despite the increase in the restaurant bill, it remains, according to what statistician Muhammad Shams ad-Din explained to Nidaa al-Watan, “below than that implemented before the crisis, and remains competitive and less than those implemented in European, Gulf and American countries, but higher than the pricing established in Egypt and Turkey.”  

Therefore, Lebanon remains the most suitable destination for expatriates and tourists for Summer 2023. 

According to Nidaa al-Watan, there are those who are working to expand abroad to introduce other countries to the Lebanese cuisine, and they collect hard currency, armed with Lebanese workers and qualified people, to operate them abroad as far as the laws allow them.   

In terms of costs, the labor cost, which is still less than in 2019, helps the owners of restaurant establishments to achieve profits, which for them now constitute about 15 percent, from a rate that reached 27 percent in the “good days.”   

On the other hand, the cost of diesel fuel and electricity has become much higher and constitutes, as some estimate, 40 percent of the cost.  

If the cost of diesel fuel to secure electricity for any restaurant before the start of the crisis and the rise in the exchange rate of the US dollar ranged between 2,000 and 3,000 dollars, equivalent to about 5 million pounds per month, as one of the restaurant owners said, today it ranges between 7 and 10 thousand US dollars per month.   

While the cost, according to another investor, of fuel oil reaches 25 percent today, compared to 8 percent previously.  

Additionally, salaries of workers for employees in restaurants vary between monthly or hourly wages.   

It became clear to Nidaa Al-Watan that the salaries have become dollarized and have risen, exceeding half the value of the salary that they were receiving in the period preceding the crisis, even exceeding this number to reach 90 percent or even 100 percent for some, especially restaurants that have a name and are interested in the quality of the services they provide and want to maintain its previous high level of food.  

Some restaurants reduced the value of salaries for waiters before the crisis, by 550 or 600 US dollars, to 350 or 400 US dollars per month, with transportation.   

While the flourishing restaurants set a minimum salary that starts at 500 US dollars, depending on the experience it enjoys, and it reaches 900 US dollars.  

As for the highly experienced chefs who used to earn, for example, 1,500 or 2,000 US dollars in the past, i.e., before the start of the crisis, they are now receiving a slightly lower salary or even the same salary, depending on the restaurant, noting that there are restaurants or cafes that pay salaries to the average chef about 620 US dollars.  

On the other hand, there are restaurants that employ employees who receive an hourly salary that has become worth a dollar, and the employee can work additional hours, up to 10 or 12 hours, except for “tips” that reach 100 US dollars in the peak season.

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