BEIRUT Daily star: A hotel owner called on all tourist establishments in Beirut to abide by a two day strike on Monday to protest the government’s negligence of the tourism sector. Amin Khayat,  also president of the Tourist Institutions in Beirut, warned the strike is just the beginning. "We may resort to other means in the next 15 days if the government and the concerned parties refrained from assisting the tourism sector," Khayat told a press conference. "The government promised us to secure a special fund to help the tourism sector. But none of their promises were fulfilled." He said that hotels will stop receiving visitors for two days.

Khayat wants a special electricity bill for all tourist establishments, as is the case for industrialists, and a resetting of taxes and VAT. But most hotel and restaurant owners are unlikely to comply with the strike call although they all sympathize with Khayat’s demands. "We fully sympathize with Khayat’s demands but I don’t think most of the establishments will close their businesses for two days," Paul Aryss, the president of the Restaurant Owners Association, told the paper.

He added that there was no coordination with other associations on this move.

"The restaurants and the Hotel Association are planning to make an important declaration soon and we may call for a strike in all the country if the government does not meet our demands," Aryss said.

He added that 10 percent of the restaurants in Beirut and the rest of the country are actually receiving customers while the rest have seen their business drop drastically.

The tourism sector was battered after the Israeli war on Lebanon in July 2006 and the ensuing political developments.

Most hotel reservations have been cancelled following the fighting in Nahr al Bared refugee camp and the assassination of a prominent political figure.

"Many restaurant owners are on the verge of bankruptcy and some of them have laid off their staff," Aryss said.

He stressed that the government should assist the tourist industry, warning that these establishments will not remain idle forever. – The Daily Star