Monday, June 11, 2007

Lebanon Faces Another Bad Summer Season

By ZEINA KARAM, Associated Press Writer10:18 AM PDT, June 11, 2007

BEIRUT, Lebanon -- Last summer it was Israeli airstrikes and Hezbollah rockets. This year, it's al-Qaida-inspired militants and explosions keeping tourists away. This small, trouble-plagued country is once again set to lose millions of much-needed tourism dollars because of unrest."Thank God, each summer we have something different so that we don't get bored," said a sarcastic Rola Bejjani, a vendor in an empty shoe store at a deserted Beirut shopping center. "I haven't made a single sale in four days."Summer is traditionally the high tourist season for Lebanon, when hundreds of thousands of visitors -- particularly Arabs from the oil-rich Gulf, and many Lebanese living abroad -- usually flood into the country to enjoy its nightlife, beaches and mountain resorts.The only traffic at Beirut airport this year is outgoing. It's either Lebanese vacationing outside to escape the violence or young Lebanese going to work abroad," he said.Airport statistics show a 7 percent drop in arrivals during the first five months of 2007 compared to the same period last year. Airlines have reduced their flights to Beirut. A prominent hotel reported a drop in bookings.But Adnan Kassar, the head of the Business Association, said it was too early to say the Nahr el-Bared fighting has killed the summer."All is not lost yet," he said. "If the army is able to end the standoff in its favor soon, then it is more than possible to salvage part of the summer season."
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