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Thu 30 Nov 2006 08:00 PM

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Operators divided on Lebanese ski market

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The UAE’s two biggest tour operators have proved poles apart when it comes to their winter ski broch-ure tactics.

Over-cautious package holiday giant, Emirates Holidays, has decided to omit Lebanon from its forthcoming ski brochure, whereas its risk-taking opponent, Etihad Holidays, has claimed it will “go big” with the destination in its soon-to-be-launched winter collateral.

“We are glad to include Lebanon; we can see demand for the country coming back already,” said Nick Wood, general manager, Etihad Holidays.

“My view is that if we help promote Lebanon, it will improve the [inbound tourism] situation.”

Hans Haensel, senior vice president, destination and leisure management division, Emirates, agreed with Wood, and conceded that omitting Lebanon from its winter ski brochure was bad decision.

“In hindsight I don’t think it was a good move.

It was done without my knowledge, but we are a commercial company and maybe there was not enough business to sustain the packages,” he said.

“[But] I think sometimes we have an obligation to support a country and we should have continued with Lebanon.

We have to share the good and bad times.

“In the past we have had good business to Lebanon, although we have never had much support from the tourism office there.”

Haensel said Emirates customers would still be given the option to book ski trips to Lebanon and that the destination would feature in the operator’s 2007 summer brochure.

He also emphasised that capacity in Lebanon’s small ski resorts was always limited and that on many occasions, particularly during the weekends, hotels were fully booked.

“So I don’t see that Lebanon will be short of business [due to Emirates decision to omit the destination from the winter ski brochure],” he added.

Both Haensel and Wood said business to Lebanon was slow, but they were confident it would bounce back next year.

Etihad’s and Emirates’ winter ski brochure launches were imminent as ATN went to press.

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