By Nour Samaha , Daily Star staff, KASLIK: Employees of stores and restaurants in Kaslik voiced concern on Tuesday that business in the area would fail to pick up following a year of explosions and internal political strife. The last month has witnessed several explosions in commercial and tourist areas in Lebanon, in addition to continual fighting between the Lebanese Army and Fatah al-Islam militants in the North. The violence has increased fears that further trouble may ensue.

"I’m worried about everything," said Elie Khalil, an employee at clothing store Oxygene. "The situation with Fatah al-Islam, the upcoming presidential elections, some are even saying there might be another war this summer … this is not good for business at all. "The thing is people want to go out and go shopping, but they are afraid. Business has been steadily going down." Mischa Kahwagi, manager of a neighboring clothes store, painted a similar picture of muted economic activity during normally bustling summer months.

"Business has not been good at all over the last month because the customers are afraid of the bombs," Kahwagi said. "Both the Lebanese and the tourists are afraid of the situation and fear another war breaking out." One of the larger explosions that rocked the country occurred last month in an industrial area in Zouk, a few hundred meters away from the commercial center of Kaslik. The blast resulted in the death of one man and in several hundreds of thousand of dollars worth of damage.

Although the explosion did not impact Kaslik physically, business in the area have reported a dramatic drop in revenues.

In an attempt to drum up business and boost profits, stores have been promoting sales on a regular basis, but to no avail.

"One day sales are successful, the next day not so much," said Kahwagi. "Sales only seem to improve when there are bombs in Beirut – when that happens, people come shopping here."

The observation was repeated in nearby restaurants and eateries. In Le Castel, a restaurant overlooking the busy main road, Pauline al-Khoury, the cashier, explained that business has taken a turn for the worse and had yet to pick up, especially in the evenings.

"Very few people are coming back because of the bombing," she said. "There is a big difference in the number of customers before the bombing and since." "More people are coming during the daytime than in the evening, probably because people are still afraid to go out at night-time."

Proprieters of local retail outlets and restaurants said that locals, rather than the tourists that typically frequent the region during the summer, accounted for the majority of sales.

"We have only been seeing Lebanese," said Khoury. "Usually we have more foreigners."

According to Khalil, most summer business usually comes from tourists from the Gulf. This year, however, hardly any Gulf tourists have visited, he said, due in part to their fear of being trapped in the country, as many were during the 2006 war with Israel.

"We used to get a lot of people from the Gulf coming in the summer, but now they are too afraid to come because of the situation," Khalil said.

Crepaway team-leader, Michel Sleiman, also said that there has been a distinct lack of tourists visiting the district.

"We have had a few tourists, but definitely not as many as before," he said. He did voice optimism, however, about the Lebanese mentality to return to normality as quickly as possible.

"While the flow of business has been slow, each day it is getting better," Sleiman said. "The thing about the Lebanese is that they forget about the bombings and want to carry on with their lives, which means, hopefully, things will get back to normal soon."