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Violence changes Middle East tourism patterns

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Beirut, Lebanon.

MIDDLE EAST TOURISM. Political violence in Syria and tension between Turkey and Israel have had a negative on tourism in Turkey (not to mention in Syria itself). Lebanon, on the other hand, is harvesting successes as in particular Arab tourists seek to refuge from the unrest in the region.

Lebanon, boasting both beaches and skiing, is trying to transform itself back to the regional tourism hotspot that it once was in the 1960’s before the civil war, connecting Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. During the few last years, incoming tourism from Arab countries has risen to 60 percent and is now number one in Lebanon, according to travel newsletter ETN. 25 percent of arrivals are coming from Europe, and the rest are coming from the USA, ETN writes.

“Brazil is also a very important market with an ongoing economic success. We are targeting on the over 5 million Lebanese people living in Brazil,” Lebanon’s Tourism Minister Fady Abboud says to ETN.

Guide: Lonely Planet’s guide to Beirut

Hotel occupancy in Lebanon is indeed down, running at 55 percent for the nine first months of 2011, down from 68 percent in 2010, the New York Times reports. But Beirut and Lebanon now work hard to reassure Westerners that the country is still safe. Beirut is also a destination for capital, where Syrian businessmen have moved money to Lebanese banks, and investors fleeing Dubai’s crash help keep real estate prices high, according to the NYT.

Thirteen months of unrest in Syria have hurt tourism in neighbouring Turkey, on the other hand, which expects visitor numbers to remain stable in 2012 at more than 30 million, Turkish Tourism Minister Ertugrul Gunay said on Monday according to Reuters.

“The Arab Spring reflected both positively and negatively on Turkish tourism. Last year, some of the reservations from Egypt and Tunisia shifted to Turkey, as well as Italy or Greece. In recent years, there have also been some political tensions between Israel and Turkey and this lost us some of the Israeli market as well,” Gunay said to Reuters.

The editor of the Traveling Reporter works as a business news editor, and is a frequent traveler. When not doing any of that, he spends time on his boat and tries to figure out where to travel next. Two of his top destinations are the Philippines and San Francisco. Email Erik! Follow the Traveling Reporter at Stumbleupon, Tumblr, Chime In, Pinterest, Google+, Weibo, Storify, Facebook, Traveldudes, Myspace.