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Mediterranean Gem

Mr. Tawfik Kfuri, Vice Mayor of Beirut Municipality, reveals what’s fueling the city’s growth in leisure visitors and international conferences

BT:  Lebanon has always been on the radar screen of European and Middle Eastern travelers, but it is seeing more interest from American visitors as well. Beirut has long been known as the Monte Carlo or Paris of the Middle East. Why is that?

KFURI: Our position along the sparkling Mediterranean Sea is perfect for sun seekers, but just a short drive away from beautiful snow-capped mountains. Being able to ski and swim in the sea on the same day is unique to only a handful of places. Also, the Lebanese capital has been home to high fashion and design for decades, which has helped us to gain international attention over the years.

BT:  What are your plans for the growing tourism market?

KFURI: I am focused on sharing the message of Lebanon’s beauty and hospitality. From the ancient ruins of Baalbek and Byblos to the magnificent parks filled with the famous cedar trees of Lebanon, there is so much to explore beyond Beirut’s famed shopping and nightlife. Recently, we signed a sister city agreement between Beirut and Los Angeles, which highlights the waterfront and cultural similarities of both cities. Even the weather and level of high-end culinary options are similar.

BT:  You’re behind the Al Delb Town House project that offers real estate investment, condo rentals, a restaurant and recreational amenities. Has it attracted an American audience?

KFURI: Yes, our owners and visitors come from around the world and include many Lebanese living and working overseas, but return to vacation in Lebanon each year. We are also seeing strong interest in people looking to retire in Lebanon because of its rich culture, social diversity, cuisine, and laid-back atmosphere. Al Delb’s success as a typical Lebanese village is an example of the country’s stability and economic investment opportunities. Many Americans have purchased homes within the development.

BT:  Four Seasons and InterContinental Phoenicia have been at the center of tourism and social activities for decades. For those not buying real estate, tell us about the hotel market in the city.

KFURI: Hilton has opened near the marina, and Grand Hyatt is nearing completion with an expected opening in 2020. Mövenpick and Fairmont continue to draw raves for their recreational facilities, and regional visitors traveling with large families are often intrigued by what the Guinness Book of World Records has named as the largest hotel suite in the world at the Grand Hills Hotel & Spa, a Luxury Collection Hotel & Spa, in Broumana’s hillside area. The rise in hotel rooms along with the enlargement strategy of Beirut airport is a clear indication that tourism, both leisure and international meetings, is on the upswing.

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