Tourism season suffers as attacks rock Lebanon

The latest attack at a hotel in Beirut could have a major impact on the Lebanese tourist industry

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A recent lull in security incidents had Lebanon in hopes of a booming tourist season this summer. Paired with a new government, Gulf countries seemed to have finally let up on travel warnings to their nationals. Unlike Western tourists, Gulf nationals tend to listen to these warnings.

A series of recent suicide bomb attacks, however, will have appeared to slash any hopes of tourism popping its head out from under the sand, as Wednesday saw the third bomb attack in just six days. The United Arab Emirates has already asked its nationals to leave and considering the distance between the Duroy Hotel, where the latest bombing took place, and the Saudi Arabia embassy in Beirut, surely other gulf countries will follow suit.

There is also a new factor in play. The last bombings were strictly in areas most tourists don't think to frequent. The southern suburbs and Hermel, where the bombings were focused, rarely attract non-Lebanese. However, the latest string of attacks may put more fear into the hearts of locals and tourists as the locations have varied gravely.

The first bomb attack on Friday was at a major checkpoint linking Beirut to the Bekaa Valley. Also on Friday a hotel in the tourist-friendly Hamra district was raided and an alleged ISIS operative was arrested. The French national said he was recruited to carry out a suicide bombing in Beirut. Monday night saw a bombing take place in Tayyouneh, though the driver was said to be heading to the southern suburbs. Tayyouneh is not a touristy area either but the fact that citizens watching a World Cup football match on a sidewalk cafe were wounded may strike fear into both tourists and locals.

The latest attack will be the largest though for the tourist industry. This suicide attack took place in a Rouche hotel called Duroy. Reports suggested that General Security agents entered a room when a Saudi national, born in 1994, detonated a bomb killing himself and wounding three agents. Another Saudi national was also arrested in relation to the attack.

Tourism Minister Michel Pharaon recently said at a conference that hotel bookings were up 15 percent from 2013. The worst possible thing to happen then did, when a bomb went off in a hotel. Rouche is also one of the most attractive tourist locations due to its proximity to a number of high-end shisha lounges, the famous Pigeon Rock, and its high-end hotels, including Duroy.
Lebanese English-language newspaper The Daily Star reported earlier this week that tourists were “unruffled” by recent security incidents with both western and Gulf tourists saying they were not worried about attacks.

There was also a promise that Saudi nationals would visit Lebanon this summer. With two of those visiting being connected to the latest bomb attack and the Saudi embassy just blocks away from the hotel, there is a heavy chance this promise will be retracted as well.

With the three month period of peace over and a new wave of bombings threatening to engulf Lebanon, the small Mediterranean country's tourism season appears to already be dead in the water.

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