Hostilities blow to overall Middle East tourism, says U.N. group

Even if the hostilities between Israel and Lebanon subside, it may be some time before either countrys respective tourism industry is able to rebound, according to the U.N World Tourism Organization.

It is also unclear what impact the on going war will have on visits to the larger the Middle East region, according to the UNWTO here.

Up until this point, the UNWTO said, the Middle East had seen a surge in tourism.

While international tourist arrivals worldwide grew at an annual average of 4%, the average growth rate of arrivals to the [Middle East] region almost tripled, leaping from 13.7 million in 1995 to 39.7 last year, UNWTO reported Friday.

The most popular destinations in the Middle East have been Jordan, Cairo and other destinations in Egypt, Syria and Lebanon.

As an indicator of its growing popularity, nearly all of the hotels in Lebanon were full during the first quarter of the year, with tourism posting a 37% increase.

Similarly, Israels tourism had jumped 25%.

Importantly, the increases occurred despite the fact the U.S. State Department has long advised U.S. visitors to defer travel to the countries.

But now with Israel and Lebanon engaged in escalating hostilities, all tourism bets are off.

The overall problem for tourism in the area with the current situation are compounded by the destruction of basic infrastructure and the absence of normal transportation and communications facilities, service and information channels, the UNWTO said.

To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to Michael Milligan at [email protected].

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