Global Blue’s Tourists Spending Report showed that tourist spending in Lebanon improved by 1% in 2014 compared to 2013. This was partly due to the 8% year-on-year (y-o-y) progress in the 4th quarter that outweighed the decline at the beginning of the year caused by security turbulences and political uncertainties concerning the presidential elections.
With respect to demographics, Arab spending continued to take the largest share of total tourist spending in Lebanon, by 2014. Saudi incomers’ payments dropped 2% yet grasped the largest stake of 14% of total spending. The second highest spenders in Lebanon were Emiratis with a 13% share of the total. However, travel warnings against Lebanon from several GCC countries considerably affected tourism with Emirati spending dipping by 11% y-o-y, and recording the largest decrease. Syrians’ spending followed, dropping by 5%. Meanwhile the biggest increase in spending was that of the French, growing by 16%, followed by a rise of 14% by Americans.
As for the number of VAT refund transactions, it decreased by a yearly 2% in 2014. Refund transaction by Kuwaiti, Egyptian and American tourists increased by 10%, 7%, and 5%, respectively. In contrast, all other nationalities showed drops in the number of their refund transactions especially Emiratis with a 17% annualized plunge. Likewise, Jordanian and Nigerian number of VAT refunds experienced the 9% and 8% declines, respectively. Tourists mostly dedicated their tax-refundable expenditures in Lebanon on “Fashion and Clothing”, which constituted 68% of the total. “Watches and Jewelry” took up 19% of their total spending, while “Souvenirs & Gifts” and “Department Stores” each constituted 4% of the total.
With respect to point of sale distribution, Beirut shops attracted visitors the most, catching 81% of their total spending. However, the only two areas to witness increase in spending evolution was Baabda, Mount Lebanon (40% yearly growth) mainly due to the opening of one of the biggest malls in Lebanon, Beirut City Center, and Kesserwan, Mount Lebanon (13% annual increase).