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Tue 1 May 2007 12:00 AM

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Business is slowly returning to Beirut

Gefinor Rotana Hotel in Beirut might only be achieving 30% of its budget for this year, but there is optimism that business is returning to the city.

Gefinor Rotana Hotel in Beirut might only be achieving 30% of its budget for this year, but there is optimism that business is returning to the city.

Hotel manager Thomas Touma said the hotel was able to maintain a certain level of occupancy during the war last year because of the high number of reporters staying at the hotel.

"However, occupancies started to drop drastically in December 2006, particularly in the areas surrounding the city centre, although United Nations subsidiaries and corporate guests continue to feed our business regularly," he said. "We were running at good 70s prior to the hostilities. Our objective is to maintain a strong [customer] base, a corporate base. Unfortunately from December 2006 until now, the whole country has been shaken, including the corporate sector."

Touma said room rates at the hotel had dropped by a maximum of 10%, because "whoever is willing to come back to Lebanon is coming back purely for business and not for leisure".

Other hotels had started a price war offering reductions of up to 30%, he added.

With some staff at the hotel no longer needed because of low business levels, the hotel had responded by sending the staff to join pre-opening teams at Rotana's many new planned hotels, without cutting any staff salaries.

But business in Beirut is expected to recover, Touma said: "There is a positive and optimistic air in the market".

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