Lebanon is emerging as one of the few positive stories in 2009 with remarkable growth in its tourism industry and overall economy, according to a branding expert.
[Ibrahim Lahoud, Director of Strategy and Brand Communication, BrandCentral] pointed out that the national rebranding efforts will have a dramatic impact in redefining the way the world looks at this key Middle Eastern country, helping promote Lebanon as a major business and tourism destination like Brazil, Greece and Turkey.
He also noted several gaps in the promotion of Lebanon, particularly in the area of tourism wherein a great number of people around the world are still unaware that Lebanon has so much more to offer than its cedar trees.
Another key measure that will enhance "Brand Lebanon" as a business destination according to Lahoud is to create dedicated districts that cater to various business and technological pursuits such as IT parks, banking and financial centres, and other business-centric development projects. Moreover, he emphasised the important role of prominent public figures such as singers and actors as well as ordinary citizens to serve as "Brand Ambassadors" of Lebanon.
“Lebanon is one of the rare success stories of the global financial crisis. Branding efforts focusing on its unique geography and way of life have opened up numerous opportunities in growth areas such as tourism, banking and construction, which continue to generate substantial capital from internal and external investors.
Another important milestone that underscores the importance of branding strategies is the recent top-ranking performance of Beirut in an exclusive list of places to go in 2009, which has certainly boosted Lebanon’s image as a leading leisure, lifestyle and business destination,” said Lahoud.
“Furthermore, it is critically important to maintain the momentum generated by the country as a tourist hotspot and a safe and secure business destination. As such, there is an urgent need to develop more specific branding ideas and strategies that will further excite the world over the positive transformation of Lebanon.
He further pointed out that the Lebanese economy has been projected to enjoy GDP growth of 3% in 2009 and 4% in 2010, according to the latest issue of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) bi-annual World Economic Outlook (WEO), even as the Lebanese Government expects a much more impressive 6 per cent growth this year. Lebanon’s projected growth rate in 2009 easily eclipses the average growth in the Middle East (2.5%) and among emerging and developing countries (1.6 %), while performing way above advanced economies and the world economy, which will record average negative growth rates at -3.8% and -1.9%, respectively.
On the other hand, a recent report by London-based investment firm Blakeney Investors has described Lebanon as a safe banking haven because of abundant liquidity and unprecedented inflow of deposits; the same report also highlighted Moody’s upgrade of Lebanon’s local and foreign currency government bond ratings at a time when several countries around the world have been downgraded.
Lebanon’s tourism sector also achieved dramatic growth, enjoying a 56.8% surge in tourist arrivals for a total of 434,418 visitors in the first four months of 2009 compared with the same period in 2008.
Lebanon’s tourism industry is expected to generate around 9.3% of the country’s GDP and account for about 9.6% of total domestic employment in 2009.
It is also projected to provide indirect revenues worth US$7.78 billion and indirectly create around 439,600 jobs or at least one out of every 3.6 jobs within the year, equivalent to 28.1% of total employment.