Despite political and economic struggles a staggering 15,000 visitors gathered at BIEL for this year's Horeca exhibition in Lebanon's capital, Beirut.
Showing faith in the country's food and beverage industry, show organisers Hospitality Services, stated that Horeca had instilled a sense of momentum in the country's recovery operation, a feeling reiterated by many industry professionals.
"This year Horeca's importance has served partly as a platform to discuss the challenges we are facing, and was a live confirmation of our will to go on," said Paul Ariss, president of the Syndicate of Restaurant Owners in Lebanon.
Despite a 10-15% drop in exhibitor numbers from the previous year the 2007 show proved to be the biggest to date for sponsorships, workshops and conferences.
"We have passed through a very tough and challenging year, but it has been quite something to be able to do this show because the whole industry has been affected," said Joumana Dammous-Salamé, managing director, Hospitality Services.
Although the show organisers did not want to overly promote international participation in case the political climate worsened, Dammous-Salamé said the first day of the show saw a high number of visitors from the region, including more than 400 attendees from Jordan and Syria.
Other global interest in the Lebanese market was seen from neighbouring countries like Cyprus, with the Cypriot Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism occupying 280m² of exhibition space.
Cypriot exhibitors included manufacturers Madari Meat Products, Megabite Catering, Avgoustinos Food Industry and Costakis Constantinou Prepared Quality Foods.
Harry Tsindos, director of Cypriot foodservice supplier Tsindos, said the first day's appearance had lured strong leads, while Sylvie Nalbandian, marketing manager for Gardenia Grain D'Or - a Bekaa Valley-based spices specialist - said the number of international visitors had been surprising.
Meanwhile, many Lebanese-based companies saw the show as an ideal chance to showcase their products, with Les Fils de Chafic Halwany introducing its private labels of frozen, chilled and canned seafood items. Tripoli-based Backaldrin also launched its new baking materials brand Tradeland after its confidence in the market steadily rose throughout the first quarter of this year.
Away from the exhibitors, Horeca also played host to the first Lebanese Cheese Festival, which showcased the country's dairy sector through stands and live cooking.
One of the key attractions of the show though was the Salon Culinaire, which returned in force with 110 chefs competing from 25 kitchens, including independent restaurants and hotel schools. Competing across 15 categories, the competition focused on national cuisine.
"You can feel a certain charm and everyone believes in their country and in the opportunities it offers; we don't have people here who are not believers," commented Dammous-Salamé.For all the latest travel news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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