KFARDEBIAN, Lebanon (Reuters) – It is a sunny day on Lebanon’s ski slopes after weeks of snowfall but, as the economic crisis bites, there is no sign of the traffic that would typically jam the road.
“It is still slow, but the weather is great and the snow as well, so we invite everyone to come,” said Nicole Wakim Freiha, marketing and development manager of Mzaar ski resort, which has slashed prices by 30% in a bid to entice skiers.
With views stretching out to the Mediterranean to the west and Syria to the east, Mzaar has some of Lebanon’s best ski runs. But several of the slopes have remained closed since the first heavy snow in December, reflecting demand.
Tourism has traditionally been an important part of the Lebanese economy, which is mired in its worst crisis since the 1975-90 war. The crisis has led banks to impose tight restrictions on how much cash savers can withdraw, forcing even those with money to think more carefully before they spend.
“This year it is looking less crowded, this year when we came on the road, traffic was less,” said tour guide Bassam Dalle. “It’s obvious, we all know why.”
A Finnish guide who organizes snowmobile tours in the area said a third of the Nordic tourists who had booked with him this year had canceled.
“It’s a fantastic place, amazing mountain ranges … plenty of snow, sunshine, warm and people are very friendly, so it’s a dream destination,” said the guide.
Skier Gaby Tabbal was enjoying the day, though several slopes were shut. Though numbers were down, he noted there were still people skiing: “This is the first day this year, the weather is beautiful, the snow is beautiful.”
Reporting by Imad Creidi; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Janet Lawrence