Lebanon's unique geographical setting and ancient heritage is once again attracting tourists to its resorts, despite the often chaotic infrastructure and [lack of co-ordinated promotions. This summer festivals at Baalbek and Beiteddine are expected to draw visitors from Europe and the US, as well as other parts of the Gulf, Middle East and North Africa. The Cedars, near Bsharreh -- the birthplace of the Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran -- and the Phoenician ruins of Byblos, Tyre and Sidon are other favourite attractions, as are the Crusader castles in the south and north.
However, most of the investment to date has been concentrated in Beirut, where the rebuilding and refurbishing of hotels, restaurants, museums and transport facilities, as well as the celebrated Casino du Liban in neighbouring Jounieh, is providing a source of revenue from business visitors, as well as tourists.
Famed pre-war hostelries like the Vendome, Bristol and Commodore have already re-opened their doors, as has the Al Bustan in Beit Mery. International hotel chains, such as Hilton, Intercontinental, Sheraton, Le Meridien and Marriott, have also returned to Lebanon, often working in partnership with investors from the Gulf states and Lebanon.
In the Central District, Kuwaiti funds are helping to restore the distinguished St Charles Hotel, which is expected to be completed next year. The project is costing some $100 million.
Saudi Arabian investors have provided the funds for the $80 million reconstruction of the Phoenicia, which is owned by the Societe des Grands Hotels du Liban (SGHL). While doubts remain about Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal's involvement in a planned Four Seasons hotel in the capital, his company says it is going ahead with the development of a 300-room hotel in the Raouche district of west Beirut. It will be managed by Switzerland's big hotel and restaurant chain, Moevenpick.
The Lebanese firm, Jamal Construction, is also building a new hotel in Raouche and, together with the Jamal Trust Bank, is reported to be negotiating with a US company to manage the 87-room, four-star facility. In Hamra, situated...