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Some call it schizophrenia, others call it adaptation to reality, while some describe it as economic resistance. However, regardless of the term, what Lebanon, which has suffered from an economic and financial crisis characterized by the World Bank as one of the most severe crises globally since the mid-19th century, is experiencing, bears many interpretations and analyses. The result is the same: This country remains resilient and steadfast despite the harshest conditions.

Once again, expatriates are challenging the circumstances, the war and Israeli threats, as evidenced by the increase in the number of passengers using Rafic Hariri International Airport from 10,000 to 16,000 daily. Airlines have also increased their flights to Lebanon from 75 to 100 flights daily, with the number expected to rise in the coming weeks. If this trend continues, the total number of arrivals in Lebanon could reach about one million passengers. According to the Association of Travel and Tourism Agencies, the number of bookings dropped following the Israeli threats but has since risen. Most of the arrivals are Lebanese expatriates. It is expected that over 400,000 expatriates will visit Lebanon during the summer season, in addition to Arab tourists from Jordan, Egypt and Iraq. The hotel sector has also seen an increase in activity, with occupancy rates exceeding 50%, especially in hotels hosting events during the Eid al-Adha holiday.

In the restaurant, café, nightclub and pastry sector, there has been notable activity, especially with the opening of new restaurants in Lebanon. Tony al-Rami, President of the Syndicate of Owners of Restaurants, Cafés, Nightclubs and Pastries in Lebanon, believes that the restaurant sector managed the crisis well, proving its resilience over the past two seasons thanks to the owners of these establishments, whom he describes as heroes. He also mentioned that the parties held in Beirut have no parallel in any other country facing similar conditions, sending a strong message to the world that Lebanon will remain a hub of art, love, peace and tourism.

This sector has managed to reclaim Lebanon’s position on the global tourism map despite the ongoing war, the absence of compensations, incentives, reforms, loans and insurance following the port explosion, as well as the lack of electricity and rescue plans. This success is attributed to the resilience of the owners of these tourism establishments and, more importantly, their employees, who are seen as partners in production and the backbone of these institutions’ success. Many employees returned from abroad to work again in their homeland, with tourism creating 15,000 jobs last season and similar numbers this season. Al-Rami reflects on 2022, when the syndicate managed the crisis effectively, particularly in the summer of 2022 when it led the way in dollarizing the sector and integrating dollars into institutions instead of currency traders’ pockets, thereby enhancing its employees’ welfare.

As far as restaurants, cafés, nightclubs and pastries are concerned, about 100 of the most in-demand and popular brands continue to operate, which is a positive indicator. Older age groups frequent Lebanese restaurants on holidays, while the younger, wealthier demographic tends to visit trendy and popular establishments. Recently, the industry has seen higher restaurant openings, driven by individuals’ dissatisfaction with storing money at home, unable to deposit it in banks, leading them to invest in the restaurant sector. However, these establishments often close due to high operating costs and the expensive, quality raw materials required. Therefore, investments in the food and beverage sector require careful market studies, consultations, and professional and scientific backgrounds.

The sector has seen closures of up to 50% in recent years, with the number of establishments decreasing from 8,500 to 4,500 over about two years. Before 2019, around 150,000 people worked in the sector, with 50,000 students working seasonally. However, after the crisis, the number fell to 80,000, then 70,000, before rising again to 100,000, with 50,000 people currently working in the restaurant sector alone, constituting about 50% of those employed in tourism establishments. Restaurants have gradually reopened, with a significant increase in numbers in the last six months. Recently, many investors have turned to restaurant development companies to open new establishments or expand successful branches abroad, selling their restaurant brands internationally as franchises. This movement has significantly supported the Lebanese economy by bringing in hard currency. Additionally, many new restaurants have opened in Lebanon, with the entry of new brands into the Lebanese market despite the ongoing economic crisis. Data indicates the opening of more than 50 new restaurants in Lebanon, including 30 in downtown Beirut around the Minet al-Hosn, port and Saifi areas. More restaurants in the vicinity are preparing to open gradually. Additionally, four global franchise brands have entered the market, including the Danish multinational JOE & THE JUICE, with 300 branches in 16 countries, the Turkish Espressolab, with over 245 branches worldwide, the British EL&N, and Turkish chef Burak’s brand, adding to the series of restaurants in Beirut. The tourism sector remains fully prepared, offering the highest level of service.