The President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, expressed hope that the situation of the tourism sector will recover after the disappearance of the reasons which led to its decline since recent developments, after the 17th of October. The President also considered that “Tourism revenues, achieved by this sector during 2019, were expected to rise much more if it wasn’t for recent events which have occurred”.

President Aoun’s positions came during receiving a delegation of the “Union of Travel and Tourism Owners Offices in Lebanon”, headed by Mr. Jean Abboud, today at Baabda Palace. Abboud presented the reality of work of the owners of travel offices, and difficulties facing workers in this sector (which includes 600 travel and tourism offices licensed according to rules and regulations in force).

Abboud indicated that owners of travel offices are suffering from two factors, which caused great harm.

“The first factor is that offices are subject to unfair and unequal competition by airline. Those companies, which are headed by the national company, are contrary to the law, especially Articles 301 of the Law of Obligations and Contracts and Article 192 of the Monetary and Credit Law and the Establishment of the Central Bank, which obligate travel and tourism offices to pay ticket prices in US Dollars without the possibility of payment in national currency. While they sell tickets directly to consumers, in all offices in Lebanon, in national currency, and based on the official rate. Travel and tourism offices are obligated to obtain US Dollars from cashiers, by a difference rate of more than 30% of the official rate. Therefore, we ask your excellency to request the concerned parties to correct this error and to the issuance of prices of travel cards in the national currency, as well as the payment of prices to airline in the same currency. ” Abboud stated.

“As for the second factor, it is embodied by Article 24 of the 2020 budget, which requires adding a paragraph to Article 43 of Law 379 (Date 12/14/2001) so that the taxation is imposed on these operations on the basis of the profit margin of 10% of the business number. This includes the value of travel cards sold within an integrated tourism program. The imposition of a value-added tax on tourism and travel services and travel tickets contradicts the ICAO treaty which Lebanon signed earlier, in addition to the impossibility of its application to sales via internet. This places the sector in unequal international competition which is useless to face and will lead to collapse. Moreover, the profit margin specified in this Article does not apply to reality in anyway” Abboud added.

“Therefore, we ask your Excellency to interfere immediately with the Finance Minister and Chairman of the Finance and Budget Committee, to redress this fatal mistake and cancel the aforementioned Article in order to preserve the constitution according to hierarchy of laws, as well as the obligations of the Lebanese state, and also to preserve the tourism and travel sector, and all employees” Abboud concluded.

President Aoun’s Reply:

President Aoun welcomed the delegation, and pointed out that “The current situation has suffered a setback, and there is a difficulty in attracting tourists to Lebanon due to the difficult conditions it is going through. In addition to the behavior of some intruders in demonstrations, who deliberately caused problems and infringed on security forces and public property. Security forces have dealt with them as they should”.

The President also stated that “Work should be done to re-attract tourists after the big decline witnessed by this sector, after the promising numbers which were recorded by the Ministry of Tourism as financial revenues amounting to more than 7 Billion Dollars, and were expected to reach 9 Billion, had it not been for the events which occurred”.

President Aoun listened to demands of the delegation, which he described as rightful, and made necessary contacts with officials concerned, to deal with this issue.

MP Ziad Aswad:

President Michel Aoun met MP, Ziad Aswad, and discussed with him the general situation, and the needs of Jezzine region.

Abbot Naamatullah Al-Hashem:

President Aoun received the Head of the Lebanese Maronite Order, Abbot Naamatullah Al-Hashem, Secretary-General Father Michel Abou Taqqa, and President of the University of the Holy Spirit in Kaslik, Father Talal Al-Hashem.

During the meeting, the delagation discussed the general situation in Lebanon and the university, with President Aoun. Abbot Al-Hashem extended an invitation, for the President, to participate in the Good Friday Prayer, which will be held at the University of the Holy Spirit, according to the annual tradition.

Source: National News Agency

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