Tourism minister wants Arab states to lift travel restrictions on 'safe' Lebanon

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Tourism minister wants Arab states to lift travel restrictions on 'safe' Lebanon

Post by Admin on Wed Apr 16, 2008 8:45 am

"Lebanon
is the safest country in the world," Tourism Minister Joseph Sarkis
told a news conference here Monday as he urged Arab states to lift
restrictions and travel warnings placed on Lebanon. Sarkis announced
that he will soon tour the Arab world in order to make the case for
lifting restrictions, adding that "the Lebanese still look forward to
hosting their Arab neighbors in the manner that we have all become
accustomed to."


Tourism
in Lebanon dominated the conference, with Sarkis repeatedly stressing
the unique cultural, historical, environmental and entertainment
attractions that set Lebanon apart from the rest of the region.


During
the conference, Sarkis also addressed the closure of 16 pubs and
restaurants in the Gemmayzeh area by the Tourism Ministry earlier this
month.


Sarkis
said the decision to shut down these "touristic establishments"
occurred after Gemmayzeh area business owners were cautioned time and
again to accommodate some of the demands made by local residents to
"reduce street noise, lower sound levels, and monitor the actions of
valet services" operating in the area.


The
tourism minister explained that although the situation in Gemmayzeh was
initially under control after a rise in investment in 2005, the
government began receiving complaints from local residents as "the
entertainment sector completely took off in this historic district and
residential area."


Sarkis
then attributed the Tourism Ministry's reluctance to act quickly to the
"poor economic situation in the country - made worse by the summer 2006
war with Israel and the ensuing political crisis - that led us to play
it slow with regard to restrictions on business activity."

The
minister said that several warnings were issued to businesses operating
in the area, but that these were heeded by only a few owners. Sarkis
explained that a protest by local residents, during which "we saw
residents out in their nightgowns and pajamas demonstrating against
excess disturbances" made it impossible for the ministry to continue to
look the other way.


"Establishments
lacking proper paperwork - nine businesses did not have either a
license or even a licensing request filed at the ministry - were shut
down immediately, as were establishments disregarding the warnings
issued by the ministry earlier," added Sarkis.


It
appears that most owners affected by the decision have already agreed
to submit agreements to restrict noise levels and monitor areas near
their businesses in order to reduce commotion in the area, which would
be enough to reopen already licensed businesses.


But
Sarkis noted that restaurants and pubs operating without a license
would have to formally submit a licensing request to the ministry, in
order to allow the government to evaluate whether these businesses meet
required standards of operation.


"These
procedures are meant to minimize the disturbances in the Gemmayzeh
area," added Sarkis. "Part of Lebanon's attraction is the unique
lifestyle in this region, which is why we understand where the owners
are coming from and hope to [find a middle way]."


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