Pilot Kidnappings Are Bad News for Lebanon’s Struggling Tourism Sector

Skift Take

The reputation of individual countries is often lost when grouped in with a region noted for instability and danger. It’s a long road ahead as Lebanon cleans up troubles at home while awaiting improvements abroad.

— Samantha Shankman

The abduction of two Turkish Airlines pilots will deal a blow to Lebanon’s tourism sector, warned caretaker Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud Saturday, who lamented the poor response to the spate of abductions that have plagued the country recently.

“What happened could be the last nail in the coffin of the tourism sector,” Abboud told LBCI, adding that the incident would have an adverse effect on the tourism sector.

He said the repercussions of the kidnapping would harm the economy as a whole given that tourism represented more than 20 percent of Lebanon’s GDP.

Pilot Murat Akpinar and his co-pilot Murat Agca were forced out of a shuttle bus at the Cocodi Bridge, less than a kilometer from Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport, after 3 a.m. and taken away by six gunmen, security sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Daily Star.

The sources said the gunmen drove off in a silver BMW X3 and a black KIA Picanto after kidnapping the two from the shuttle. They had been headed to their Beirut hotel.

Abboud said the incident comes at a time when officials are already attempting to reduce the impact of the existing travel advisories by Gulf countries.

“Moreover, the land borders have been shut down and an airplane ticket from Jordan to Lebanon has jumped to $700,” he said.

The minister also held the government responsible for neglecting to fully resolve the growing number of kidnapping incidents in the country.

Asked about the possibility that the abduction could be related to the case of nine Lebanese held in Syria, Abboud said: “Retaliatory kidnappings are a vicious cycle and no one can convince me that kidnapping someone is a solution to anything.”

A group calling itself Zuwwar al-Imam Ali al-Reda has claimed responsibility for the abduction, demanding the release of nine Lebanese Shiites who have been held by Syrian rebels since 2012.

(c)2013 The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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