War And Peace: Beirut´s Boom In Tourism (Good Or Bad?)
I stumbled upon a couple of articles in The Gazette this week highlighting Beirut, capital of Lebanon, as a city coming back to life. For the past 4o-plus years, this country has seen some of the worst of times. Situated in a precarious geographical position, it has been in the middle and on the sidelines of war.
However, as the article mentions, in January 2009, Beirut topped the New York Times list for vacation destinations. During the same year, Lonely Planet ranked the capital in it´s list of top ten cities for its ¨charm and cultural dynamism.¨ The year 2009 also saw a record 2 million tourists, according to The Montreal Gazette. As a result, it is suggested that the hopes and dreams are high right now for bringing Beirut back to its pre-1970s luster. The London-based, boutique hotel, Le Gray, is merely one of many that aim to take advantage of the growing tourism. Plans for a Four Seasons and a Hyatt are underway.
Along with a record amount of tourists, 2009 was a year of peace for the metropolis that still has battle wounds from, as recent as, 2008. My questions are: Has peace befallen Beirut because of tourism or has tourism increased because it was a time of peace? Are tourists becoming more fascinated by war, wanting to experience it firsthand? Or, does the increase in tourism provide more media attention, thus a time of tranquility? I know that the same questions arose when the Olympics went to Beijing and these are the types of questions we should keep asking ourselves. Nonetheless, it is the proverbial chicken or the egg.
I suppose with more people traveling than ever, the grey area of politics, power and peace become a little more transparent. The successive question is whether our desire just to see another place will ruin our chance to truly experience it? The hotels will provide jobs, apparently peace, and stimulate the economy. I wonder what happens to the rest of the country? It´s been a long-standing, internal debate of my own: does tourism help or hinder? Possibly, in this case, tourism helps if it means people are safe from being bombed. Nevertheless, I still wonder, what are the long-term effects of Western-based businesses that have different outlooks on the way things ¨ought¨ to be?
A very close friend of mine is Lebanese. Her mom and dad live in Lebanon. I wonder what their thoughts are? I will have to get back to you on this one.
By Brit Weaver
About the Author
Toronto born and based, Brit is an avid leisure cyclist, coffee drinker and under-a-tree park-ist. She often finds herself meandering foreign cities looking for street eats to nibble, trees to climb, a patch of grass to sit on, or a small bookstore to sift through. You can find her musing life on her personal blog, TheBubblesAreDead.wordpress.com.