It is no secret that Lebanese expatriates represent the bulk of visitors arriving in Lebanon every year.
Statistics from the Tourism Ministry and General Security indicate that 62.6 percent of the nearly 2.5 million visitors in 2022 were in fact expats. Tuesday’s edition of Lebanon This Week, Byblos Bank’s weekly magazine, suggests that these figures do not include Syrian and Palestinian nationals.
This percentage of Lebanese expats visiting in 2022 was higher than the previous year. In 2021, 56.9 percent of visitors were Lebanese expats (1.2 million).
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a travel agent who gathers statistics for a European carrier, said the percentages reflect the minimum thresholds, since the General Security does not distinguish foreign visitors from Lebanese dual nationals or those using foreign passports.
Jean Abboud, president of the Association of Travel & Tourist Agents in Lebanon, confirmed these remarks.
Meanwhile, a General Security source said the contrary, assuring that Lebanese with a foreign passport are registered as Lebanese nationals.
Stats for the first quarter of 2023
The data confirms that the number of visitors to Lebanon almost doubled between 2021 and 2022, from nearly 2.1 million to almost four million. This trend is likely linked to the lifting of travel restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of Lebanese visitors increased by 109 percent over this period, compared to 65 percent for foreign visitors.
In 2022, Lebanon welcomed more than 1.3 million visitors between early July and late September 2022. This represents 34 percent of the total number of visitors over the year. Lebanese expats accounted for nearly 59 percent of these summer visitors.
Caretaker Tourism Minister Walid Nassar reported that 1.72 million visitors had landed in Lebanon last summer and spent some $5 billion. Nassar did not respond to our inquiry about the exact period taken into account for this estimate.
The most recent data from the Tourism Ministry and General Security for 2023 was also published in Lebanon This Week. Lebanese nationals accounted for 67.8 percent of the 853,004 arrivals recorded in the first quarter of 2023, slightly higher than the 66.2 percent recorded in the same period in 2022. The total number of visitors rose by 35 percent between these two quarters.
According to Banque du Liban’s most recent figures, revenues from tourism reached $3.9 billion in the first nine months of 2022, an increase of 78 percent compared to the same period a year earlier.
The International Monetary Fund, meanwhile, warned that tourism’s positive impact on the balance of payments was offset by the fact that Lebanon was extremely dependent on imports.
This article was originally published in French in L'Orient-Le Jour. Translation by Joelle El Khoury.