|By Mohammed Zaatari, The Daily Star,
Beirut, LebanonMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jan. 19, 2010--SIDON -- The 6,000-year-old southern coastal city of Sidon does not lack historic monuments and tourist attractions, but it does lack hotels and lodgings ready to receive the increasing number of tourists.
But Sidon Mayor Abdel-Rahman al-Bizri said on Monday that a new project would be launched soon to build a luxurious hotel to replace the old Hotel Tanios, which was destroyed during the 1975-1990 Civil War.
Tanios Hotel, also known as Hotel Sidon, was inaugurated in the 1960s by former Prime Minister Riyad Solh but was destroyed in 1975 during the Civil War and again in 1982 after the Israeli invasion. The current project aims at building a new hotel to replace it.
Bizri said during an interview with The Daily Star that Sidon's accommodation facilities did not match the growing tourist activity. He complained that while the city had received more than 50,000 European tourists, it only had two small hotels that could accommodate about 50 people.
He then talked about the project to build the new hotel and said several complications have been standing in the face of accomplishing it. Bizri said the municipality had to refer to the judiciary in order to buy the land from its previous owner who did not fulfill his obligation to invest, and that it also had trouble finding investors. "We presented the project to several investors but the only one who was cooperative was Ezzat Qaddoura," he said.
The preliminary studies for the project were conducted by the company Khatib and Alami and the total cost of the investment was estimated at $25million to $30 million. The hotel will be built on a land of 7,000 to 9,000 square meters at the northern entrance of the city and will include about 85 rooms divided between three floors above the ground. "We don't want to ruin the sea view and we want to use the land close to the sea for maritime activities," said Bizri.
He added that the hotel would include ballrooms because the wedding industry was booming in Sidon with about 250 weddings per year.
Nonetheless, more obstacles still lie in the face of completing the project such as getting a complete approval to start building and attracting more investors, preferably Sidon locals.
But many people could still be hesitating because of Sidon's reputation of being a conservative city that doesn't serve alcohol. Bizri denied that fact and said the municipality did not force any hotel, restaurant or shop owner to refrain from serving alcoholic beverages. "They have the freedom of choice," he said, noting that only a few restaurants did not serve alcohol.
Bizri regretted the rumors, as well as the government's negligence of the city. He complained that no serious investment was being made to develop Sidon's tourist sites and end the problem of its waste dump. On the contrary, he said the city has rarely been mentioned in the media for reasons other than its security situation.
Sidon's main tourist attractions include its maritime fort that dates back to the 13th century, the historic hotel Khan al-Ifranj, the Omari mosque, the Saint Nicholas Church, the old market, the Corniche and the Island of Zire. The city proved during Ramadan seasons it could events that attracted tourists from across Lebanon, as well as foreign countries, Bizri said.
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