The fourth quarter of 2019 was particularly challenging for Lebanon, both externally and internally, given that October ushered in an open-ended eruption of social rioting across the country which paralyzed businesses and disrupted the activity of most economic sectors.
Against this backdrop, tourism, one of Lebanon’s main growth drivers, witnessed an annual slump of 1.72% in the number of airport passengers, which constituted the first and sharpest down tick in the past 8 years. Correspondingly, the total number of travelers welcomed by Beirut airport closed the year 2019 at 8.69M passengers. In comparison, the number of airport passengers had grown by 6.76%YOY and 7.36%YOY in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Meanwhile, the parameter witnessed its first down tick since 2011, when the total number of Beirut airport travelers retreated by an annual 0.04% on the back of the eruption of the Syrian crisis that year, leaving spillovers on the Lebanese economy.
Moreover, the breakdown of the year-end Beirut Airport statistics showed that total Arrivals in 2019 retreated by 3.51% year-on-year (YOY), to stand at 4.28M by December. By the same token, the number of Departing passengers contracted by an annual 1.84% totaling 4.32M over the same period. Meanwhile, Transit passengers increased from 4,429 by December 2018 to 89,159 passengers by Dec. 2019; yet again, this substantial change is attributed to the airport’s new methodology introduced in January 2019, to calculate transit flights more accurately.
On a monthly basis, the month of December 2019 alone also witnessed a sharp down tick of 19.6%YOY in the number of airport passengers to 545,000 passengers, compared to an 8.1% yearly uptick in 2018 as passengers totaled 677,845 travelers. In details, arriving and departing passengers both fell significantly over the period, declining by 21.52%YOY and 20.78%YOY to 284,299 passengers and 249,698 travelers.
Evolution in the Number of Airport Passengers in Q4
Source: Statistics Dept. of Beirut International Airport