Bryan Plamondon, The number of tourists to Lebanon fell for the third consecutive month in October, plunging 48% month-on-month (to 61,093) following declines of 3% and 36% in August and September, respectively, according to figures released by the Tourism Ministry. Moreover, annual growth declined by 12% compared with October 2004. Lebanon’s tourism industry has struggled to rebound from the political and security concerns, with tourism figures remaining well below their 2004 levels. In the first 10 months of 2005, the number of tourists visiting Lebanon fell 13%, to 972,838 compared with a year earlier. Arab tourists represented 40% of the total in the January-October period, followed by tourists from Europe (28%), Asia (15%), and America (12%). 

Significance: The country’s tourism sector, which is an important driver of growth in the Lebanese economy. Concerns and disruptions stemming from Syria’s pullout from Lebanon, the May parliamentary elections, further assassinations of anti-Syrian politicians, and the Lebanese-Syrian border dispute have also dampened tourist activity this year. Even so, while tourist activity in January-October was down 13% from its 2004 levels, it remained higher than the same period of 2003 (up 9%). Moreover, although the tourism sector will fall short of its performance in 2004, the number of tourists to Lebanon is expected to surpass one million for a third straight year.