The number of tourists to Lebanon dropped by 10 percent in the first eight months of 2013 compared to the same period last year, with European visitors topping the list ahead of Arabs for the first time in years. The number of tourists totaled 891,079 compared to 986,649 in 2012, with Europeans accounting for 35 percent of total visitors, followed by Arabs at 30.6 percent.

The number of Arab tourists declined by 18.8 percent year-on-year as a result of travel warnings issued by several Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have all urged their citizens to leave Lebanon in the wake of a series of security incidents that broke out in the country over the past year and have advised them against traveling to Beirut.

The number of tourists from the UAE declined by 70.3 percent, followed by Saudi Arabia with a 49.4 percent decrease, Kuwait at 34.3 percent and Jordan at 14.3 percent.

Officials in the tourism industry warned last month that several businesses would face bankruptcy by the end of September if the steep decline in the sector continued.

Measures proposed to sustain the sector include one pitched by business owners who have urged the Central Bank to reschedule existing loans and offer new ones at subsidized rates.

An association of tourism industry officials called last month on Lebanon’s national carrier Middle East Airlines to reduce fares in a bid to encourage additional tourists from Iraq and Jordan.

Visitors from Iraq accounted for 10.3 percent of the total tourist arrivals to Lebanon in the first eight months of this year, followed by France with 9.7 percent, the United States with 8.4 percent and Jordan with 6.2 percent.

Lebanon’s tourism sector contributed more than $8 billion in 2009 and 2010 to Lebanon’s GDP. According to the Tourism Association, this figure is expected to drop to less than $4 billion this year if security conditions continue to decline.

Photo Credit: Sculpture of a man with a laptop by Syrian artist Wissam Muases is seen at the Art Residency Aley in eastern Lebanon. Mohamed Azakir / Reuters