Desperate for diaspora: Lebanon begs for a tourism cash injection

Lebanon continues to reel from rampant power cuts and water shortages, as its years-long economic crisis continues.

But its government is banking on a summer tourist season for a much-needed cash injection, courtesy of thousands of Lebanese working abroad who are expected to come back on holiday.

This summer, Lebanon is desperate, more than ever, for its diaspora.

“I am asking with all my love for our family and friends to come to Lebanon,” the caretaker tourism minister Walid Nassar said at the country’s international airport earlier this month. “They will spend money anywhere they go, but Lebanon is today in greater need.”

The tourism ministry, with funding from a number of companies, set up billboards depicting Lebanon’s beaches, rivers, ancient towns, and historical sites. An optimistic Nassar anticipates that a million tourists will arrive in Lebanon this summer, pouring up to $3.5bn into the economy.

But over at Ferdinand’s, a gastropub off Beirut’s once-bustling Hamra Street, the mood is far more subdued.

“You can only hear people talking about either their love life or the situation in Lebanon,” owner Riad Aboulteif told Al Jazeera.

Like hotels, cafes, and restaurants across the country, the pub gets a spike in clientele over the summer and around Christmas. “Yeah, we definitely get a minimum increase of 20 percent or so,” Aboulteif explains. “But that extra revenue doesn’t last very long.”

Rampant power cuts over the past year, a more than 1000 percent increase in the price of food, and a Lebanese pound that has lost more than 90 percent of its value against the dollar in three years are just a few of the many factors that make operating a business an expensive for Aboulteif.

He has recently been forced to move the pub a few blocks next to a hotel, where it can benefit from a supply of electricity to keep its lights on, and refrigerators running without interruption.

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