| 17 April 2024, Wednesday |

Abboud to SBI: Fuel crisis ended the summer season too early

Rania Ghanem

Lebanon’s summer, usually bustling with expatriates and incoming tourists, have been dealt a blow this year due to the fuel crisis. The humiliation queues that filled the streets of the city forced expatriates and tourists to take their leave and go back to their residence countries.

The total number of airport passengers travelling via Rafic Hariri Beirut International Airport (RHBIA) including arrivals, departures, and those transiting have reached 1.4 million in the first half of the year, registering 44 percent increase compared to the same period last year, according to the Directorate of Civil Aviation. The number of arrivals visiting the country have reached 731,000 during the first half of the year, while the number of visitors departing from Lebanon have reached 678,000. However, the number of passengers using the airport dropped by 63 percent compared to the same period in 2019, reaching 3.9 million passengers.

Remarkable activity in July

The Head of the Association of Travel and Tourist Agents Jean Abboud told Sawt Beirut International (SBI) that the  “activity is considered normal especially amid the stifling economic crisis the country is going through, however, the remarkable movement was in July until mid-August, as the airport received about 11,000 arrivals on daily basis, which is equivalent to 550,000 passengers in 45 days.” However, the airport activity started contracting in mid-August, and Abboud attributed this drop to the daily challenges that the Lebanese are experiencing starting from medicine outages reaching fuel outages and the humiliation queues that filled that country’s streets.

“Summer is over”

Abboud said that the chaos that used to be witnessed in the airport’s departure section in mid-September, has started in mid-August this year. He said: “Expatriates who were willing to spend a long vacation in Lebanon after a year and a half of strict restrictions imposed to curb the spread of coronavirus, they decided forcibly to end their vacation and return to their countries of residence as a result of the successive crises that afflicted Lebanon.”

Four Iraqi planes a day

Abboud confirmed that Lebanese expatriates were among the vast majority of arrivals this year, specifically those residing in the Gulf and Arab countries, as well as African and European countries. But the activity has been shy for expats in Latin America, the United States due to the strict procedures that still prevail in many airports.

Abboud added that Iraqis flocked to Lebanon remarkably this year, as four Iraqi planes were arriving in Beirut carrying a total of 1,000 passengers every day. “But this activity declined at the end of July after stricter measures were imposed, including quarantine for arrivals, with the aim of containing the spread of the new delta variant,” said Abboud.

Medical staff immigrating 

As for the departing activity from Lebanon, Abboud pointed out that the first half of the year witnessed a growing phenomenon, which is the immigration of doctors, nurses and medical staff. It was estimated that 60,000 people from the medical staff left the country amid the worsening economic crises, mainly the hospital crisis, and the acute shortage of medical supplies and medicines. Abboud added: “Every three patients previously had a nurse at their service, but this number dropped dramatically recently, to be limited for one nurse for every 20 patients.” In addition, there is a remarkable movement of emigration from all Lebanese.

Prosperous summer

There is no doubt that this remarkable movement has impacted touristic institutions positively and prospered activity in restaurants, cafes and hotels, particularly the four-star category that are spread outside Beirut. Tourism’s contribution to GDP is likely to reach $4 billion in 2021, according to Abboud. “The tourism and retail sectors have benefited from the promising season, and from the fresh dollars spent by expatriates.”

  • Sawt Beirut International