SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 1 December 2021, Wednesday |

Festive season not so bright for restaurants this year as economic crisis bites

Rania Ghanem
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Lebanese restaurants have been always buzzing with customers during the holiday and festive season, but the economic and financial meltdown along with the dramatic outbreak of the Covid-19, was enough to change the face of one of the largest economic sectors in Lebanon.

The Vice President of the Syndicate of Owners of Restaurants, Cafes, Night-Clubs and Pastries in Lebanon, Khaled Nazha, told Sawt Beirut International: “Before the crisis, this sector used to employ 160,000 fixed workers and 40,000 seasonal workers, but recently about 5,700 restaurants have shut down due to successive crises.” He added: “The holidays are coming, but with a pinch. People are angry, are getting fired, paid half-salaries, or not working.”

 

Preventive measures

With the festive season approaching, the number of daily Covid-19 infections are on still on rise amid a dramatic collapse to the healthcare and hospital sector, which may sound the alarm and threaten the possibility of applying the general closure again. The Syndicate in cooperation with other economic sectors, are developing a new mechanism similar to a ‘transit card’ that would enable vaccinated people to enter shops and tourist institutions. However, this matter requires further cooperation between the state and security forces on the one hand, and society on the other, according to Nazha.

The Syndicate is also seeking to develop a new protocol for preventive measures inside restaurants to limit the spread of the epidemic and to avoid the last year’s scenario. Nazha said: “The rise in Covid-19 cases that followed the festive period last year was not due to restaurants. We were keen to ensure social distancing while adopting other preventive measures such as putting face masks and others,” considering that the infection was transmitted in family meetings and in religious places. Nazha confirmed that the restaurant sector has vaccinated all workers, and the syndicate has concluded agreements with specialized companies such as “Boecker” and “GWR” that organize training courses for workers to apply health measures necessary to limit the spread of the virus and ensure restaurants are a safe environment for their patrons. “We are trying to avoid a new closure,” Nazha said.

 

Pessimistic overview

Nazha does not expect the festive season to be fruitful for restaurants this year, as the rise in coronavirus cases, along with the devaluation, and the deteriorating value of the national currency will reduce demand. He added, “I think that the majority of Lebanese artists will celebrate Christmas and New Year’s parties abroad.”

Lebanon has become a more attractive and low-cost tourist destination recently, mainly after devaluation. Last summer, a large number of foreign tourists visited Lebanon, which was an alternative tourist destination for many countries that imposed general closure measures due to corona, according to Nazha. He added, “But the bad services, along with the power cuts and the outages in gasoline have pushed tourists to cut their vacations and go back to their homes,” stressing that the diplomatic rift with the Gulf countries will prevent Gulf tourists from coming, therefore, tourists will be limited to Egyptian and Iraqi nationalities.