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Beirut: back where it belongs

After a good surprise in 2008, 2009 is the year of the recovery for Beirut. The Lebanese capital continues to post impressive results. The growth of the RevPAR on twelve rolling months reached almost 100% in September. Beirut hotel industry is like a UFO in the middle of a glo­bal hospitality industry still .ghting to stay a.oat. This is only a fair back swing of the pendulum for Beirut as Lebanese hotels re­mained desperately empty for a long period of time, while the rest of the industry world­wide was benefiting from the impressive growth in tourism traffic.The exceptionnal performances of some other months of the year (+267,2% for the RevPAR in March, for example) demons­trate that Beirut is not a city for Leisure vi­sitors only. The Lebanese capital has ban­daged its wounds and the business community in back to make deals. This is good news for the hoteliers who should be able to keep a high level of activity and per­formance. The high level of occupancy, in particular, allows for new hotel openings without causing damages to the new bright stars of Beirut: The Gray: a project initiated by Gordon Campbell Gray- who is also res­ponsible for the opening of the One Aldwych in London- which will open next November, and the Four Seasons, originally scheduled for 2005 and which should be inaugurated in December.Just a little .ashback to the tough period that the Lebanese capital has gone through: in 2005, the assassination of the Prime minister Rafik Hariri in February provoked a brutal stop in tourism development after a re­cord year 2004. Then in 2006, the Israeli offensive against the Hezbollah just before the summer break added another ordeal. In 2007, the constant political instability dis­couraged a good share of the traditional clientele. Hoteliers in the city lost almost three entire seasons. The signing of the Doha Agreement, just before the summer season 2008, put an end to a long period of instability. The destination’s appeal was relaunched in a blink of an eye.Immediately after this Agreement, the Lebanese Diaspora and the Middle-Easterners clientele, the two most important sources of clientele for the city, followed by the French and American visitors, found their way back to this leisure destination they have been missinf for a long period. Since then, the average OR is close to 75% in comparison with only 50% last year. The celebration of Christmas and the New Year Eve in 2008 was very profitable for the hotels in Beirut. As a solid proof of the bust­ling atmosphere that characterises Beirut nowadays, the New York Times has voted the Lebanese capital as THE town to visit in 2009.The month of September clearly illustrates this very positive trend. The Occupancy Rate is up by 20.1 points and the Average Daily Rate by 57.6%. These figures com­bine for an impressive growth of the RevPAR by 130.0%. This performance is due to a combination of several beneficial events: first, the end of the Ramadan fast and the Eid celebration, which brought many visitors to a festive city. Second, the organisation at the end of the month of the Games of the French-speaking community. This major sport event is also a good illus­tration of the Beirut’s capacity to host a very large gathering of people.Bruce Gallie, the new Revenue Manager of InterContinental Hotels Group for the whole of Beirut, con.rms this general fee­ling: “The InterContinental Phœnicia Beirut has enjoyed a high rate of bookings and oc­cupancy during that period due to the holy Eid. Moreover, several individual bookings pertaining to the Jeux de la Francophonie event have also been accommodated. As a result, the hotel was fully booked during that period”.Indeed, the Middle-Eastern clients, in parti­cular those from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, have return to their country earlier in August, to spend the Ramadan in their private home. Therefore, the progression of the RevPAR was not very strong in August according to the data collected by MKG Hospitality (only +4.4%), mostly due to a sudden drop in oc­cupancy (-18,4 pts). But everyone came back to town to celebrate the end of the Ramadan and to enjoy their very last days of vacation along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea.The exceptionnal performances of some other months of the year (+267,2% for the RevPAR in March, for example) demons­trate that Beirut is not a city for Leisure vi­sitors only. The Lebanese capital has ban­daged its wounds and the business community in back to make deals. This is good news for the hoteliers who should be able to keep a high level of activity and per­formance. The high level of occupancy, in particular, allows for new hotel openings without causing damages to the new bright stars of Beirut: The Gray: a project initiated by Gordon Campbell Gray- who is also res­ponsible for the opening of the One Aldwych in London- which will open next November, and the Four Seasons, originally scheduled for 2005 and which should be inaugurated in December.

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