|By Dana Halawi, The Daily Star, Beirut,
LebanonMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Aug. 04, 2010--BEIRUT -- Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud said that the clashes that took place on Tuesday between the Lebanese army and Israeli troops on the border will not affect the tourism industry in Lebanon.
"Tourists got used to the Israeli style and I don't think that they will want to end their vacation in Lebanon because of what happened," Abboud told The Daily Star.
Lebanese and Israeli troops exchanged fire on the border Tuesday in the most serious clashes since a fierce war four years ago, and Lebanon said at least two of its soldiers and a journalist were killed in shelling.
Abboud said that "Israel will use every trick in the book" to get in the way of Lebanon's prosperity and one way to do that is by ruining the tourism season.
Abboud has previously announced that he expects the year 2010 to be Lebanon's best tourist year. He expected "a 20 percent increase in tourist arrivals" from last year, anticipating a total of 2,250,000 to visit Lebanon in 2010.
Meanwhile, Byblos Bank's Lebanon This Week reported that the number of incoming tourists to Lebanon totaled 964,067 in the first half of 2010, constituting an increase of 26.6 percent from 761,415 tourists in the same period of 2009.
According to the report, Arab tourists accounted for 39.9 percent of total visitors and were followed by visitors from Europe with 24.4 percent, Asia with 18.9 percent, America with 12.1 percent, Oceania with 2.7 percent and Africa with 1.9 percent. The number of tourists reached 231,212 in June 2010, constituting an increase of 20.6 percent, up from 191,691 in June 2009.
The report added that Arabs accounted for 35.1 percent of total visitors in June 2010, followed by Europeans with 24 percent, Americans with 18.8 percent, and Asians with 17 percent.
Abboud said that tourists will not be affected by this incident because they were convinced to choose Lebanon as their tourist destination in the first place. "They came to support our country," he said. "I call upon the Lebanese media not to exaggerate the incident."
On the other hand, hotels in Beirut and in Mount Lebanon confirmed that no cancellations took place yet. "We have a full occupancy so far," said front office manager of Casa D'or hotel in Hamra. "We expect tourists to leave the country starting August 7 before the beginning of Ramadan."
Racha Mounzir from the reservations department at the Coral Beach hotel confirmed that there were no cancellations there yet either. There were no cancellations at Al Bustan Hotel, said front office manager Gloria Sawma.
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