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Home >> World
UPDATED: 10:11, August 26, 2006
Long way expected for recovery of Lebanon's service, commercial business
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Barman Joe Zoghby and his fellow bartenders were sitting idly when Xinhua reporters stepped into their hard-rock style pub named "Blush" in downtown Beirut on Thursday evening.

"Welcome!" Joe sprang up immediately, apparently delighted by the arrival of foreign guests in his hitherto empty pub.

The knowledge that the comers were journalists who came here for information brought a flash of slight disappointment in the 30- year-old's eyes, but still he asked the mixologist to make glasses of fruit cocktail for us.

"These are gifts for you, because you are the first guests of our pub on the day of reopen," he said.

As the reporters changed the mind and decided to order some drinks at his pub, an all beaming Joe termed it as a "good start" for his pub.

He told Xinhua reporters that they had tried to keep "Blush" open despite the eruption of Israel-Hezbollah conflict, but had to close it two weeks into the 34-day-long offensive, because no guests would visit pub during the fighting.

"We suffered a minimum loss of 2,000 U.S. dollars a day during the closure, which is a heavy blow to us," Joe said with a deep sigh.

"But we can't expect things to come back on track immediately, after all the war had just ended," he said.

Kissing the cross hanging on his chest, Joe said "I wish God can help us get out of the plight soon."

Israel and Lebanese Hezbollah started their over-month-long fighting on July 12 after two Israeli soldiers were captured and eight others killed by Hezbollah in cross-border attacks.

Over 1,000 Lebanese and 157 Israelis have been killed in the conflict in addition to huge property damages and economic losses of both sides.

The conflict came to a cease-fire on Aug. 14 thanks to the UN Resolution 1701.

About 100 meters away from "Blush", the situation in another pub called "Hole in the Wall" seemed better, where around a dozen people were seen hanging out killing their time.

But Zony Sassine, waiter of "Hole in the Wall", which was reopened last Wednesday, still expressed frustration over a sharp decline of business.

"We lost 95 percent of guests after the conflict. Before the conflict, 65 to 70 percent of our guests are foreign tourists, but now we lost them totally," Zony said gloomily.

Apart from pubs, the shops in Lebanon also suffered a slack time, for all their striking signs of sale.

Reduction of foreign tourists caused a huge setback to hotel industry in Lebanon too, especially in Beirut, which used to be a popular seaside summer resort.

Beau Rivage Hotel Khaled Harmouche, a four-star hotel located in southern outskirts of Beirut, at which the Xinhua reporters stay, received altogether less than 10 guests, most of them foreign journalists.

"The residents in this district did not return completely, saying nothing of the tourists. We can only expected the next year. " croaked the manager.

Southern outskirts of Beirut suffered heavy Israeli bombardment during the conflict, and many of the residents fled.

The service and commercial industries contribute more than 70 percent of the Gross Domestic Production (GDP) of Lebanon every year, which relies heavily on tourism.

However, the 34-day-long conflict cost Lebanon about 1 million foreign tourists, dealing Lebanese service and commercial business a heavy blow.

Amein Khayat, head of Lebanon's tourist establishments, told a press conference here Thursday that the Israel-Hezbollah fighting cost the country's hotels an estimated loss of 83.875 million U.S. dollars as direct result of reservation cancellation.

The nearly-84-million-dollars loss in hotel sector was a direct result for cancellation of reservation in the period of two months from July 15 to Sept. 15, Khayat said, adding prior to the Israeli offensive, hotel sector's income was estimated to exceed any season for years.

Source: Xinhua

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