BEIRUT: A new campaign headed by BLOM BANK aims to harness the country’s lost billions by encouraging citizens to spend their money at home. “Fakker B Lebnen,” or “Think Lebanon,” aims to invigorate domestic spending, tourism and industry with the ultimate goal of creating jobs for Lebanese people and strengthening the economy. BLOM BANK launched the campaign last month under the patronage of President Michel Aoun at the presidential palace in Baabda.
“Lebanese spent $4.72 billion abroad on travel and tourism in the first nine months of 2018,” Byblos Bank’s chief economist Nassib Ghobril told The Daily Star, adding that it was the most up-to-date statistic on Lebanese spending abroad.
Global Blue, a private tax refund company, previously estimated that Lebanese tourists spent roughly $5.5 billion abroad in 2017.
The trend is continuing, according to Beirut Traders Association head Nicolas Chammas, who noted that in comparison, foreign tourists spend around $3.5 billion yearly in Lebanese markets. “There is so much money leaving Lebanon. We can say that it is seeping away in three areas: tourism, trade and foreign employment,” he told The Daily Star.
To counteract this imbalance, BLOM BANK is championing a “coalition of key local associations,” including the BTA and the Lebanese Economic Organizations.
The campaign plans to match prices of goods in Lebanon with prices abroad, and apply the same principle to touristic attractions, making promotions, offers and discounts available locally in order to encourage local tourism. On the industrial level, local industrialists will benefit from offers to expand and innovate their businesses.
A broader aim of the campaign is to encourage Lebanese people to stay in Lebanon by creating job opportunities. Statistics by Information International, an independent Beirut-based think tank, suggest that in 2015 about 34 percent of young people wanted to leave the country.
Chammas hopes that the campaign will reduce the infamous Lebanese brain drain for two reasons. “It is a message addressed to employers. The campaign will make them aware of the dangers of employing foreign workers,” he said. Secondly, a strengthened economy will create more job opportunities for Lebanese youth, Chammas continued. “The campaign will launch a virtuous circle by keeping money in Lebanon.”
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