Middle East

Crises will not stop expats visiting Lebanon

Sun, 2021-07-18 00:30

BEIRUT: The endless crises that Lebanon has faced for more than a year have not deterred expatriates from visiting their home country in large numbers, Middle East Airlines officials have told Arab News.

According to the statistics of Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport, the number of passengers who came to Lebanon on July 1 exceeded 15,000, including 13,606 Lebanese expatriates. A record number of 20,000 returning expatriates was registered by the end of this week.
Nisrine, who came back from Germany with her children for a summer vacation, said: “People look tired, nobody laughs, everybody is nervous and tense, they start to complain the moment they see you; no electricity nor gasoline, and life is too expensive.”
Loris, a Lebanese woman whose daughter is getting married, said that her relatives coming from Sweden and Canada for the wedding were surprised by the overcrowded coffee shops and restaurants in Broummana, Jounieh, Byblos and Batroun, while darkness prevails in Beirut. The Lebanese capital was hit by a massive explosion last year.
Pierre Ashkar, president of the Association of Hotel Owners in Lebanon, said: “The political and security situation does not seem to make expatriates leave the country after the prime minister-designate Saad Hariri resigned … They have always been successful in finding solutions.”
Ashkar estimated the number of Iraqis who came to Lebanon during June at about 30,000. He said: “These people are fleeing from the security situation in their country, which is far worse than that of Lebanon.”

He said: “As for the Lebanese expatriates if they face a blocked road, they can go to other roads which they know. And if there is tension in the capital, they can go to guesthouses in Ras Baalbek and other remote villages.”
Ashkar said: “The explosion of the Port of Beirut last year resulted in the closing of (many) luxurious hotels … (This situation) reflects the huge economic blow to the capital.
“Prices in Lebanon are much cheaper for expatriates or tourists than for Lebanese people who earn their income in Lebanese pounds. However, the huge increase in the exchange rate of the US dollar in the black market is causing problems for the owners of tourist venues.” The US dollar exchange rate in the black market has passed 22,000 Lebanese pounds for $1.
Most Lebanese people find the price of a meal in a restaurant extravagant. Yet you  have to book ahead to reserve a table in restaurants and wedding halls in hotels are fully reserved throughout the summer.
May, a Lebanese lady living in Canada, returned to Lebanon for the summer and did not find the country cheap. She said: “I cannot cope with the increase in the exchange rate of the dollar.”
She said: “How can I spend money while my parents’ pension is worth nothing … My daughter could not go to the dentist because there are no antibiotics, and I did not bring medicines with me from Canada.”

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The political and security situation does not seem to make expatriates leave the country after Hariri resigned. (Supplied)
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