The answer would obviously be YES in any other time, but it’s not that simple given the circumstances Lebanon is going through right now. While expats will bring in “fresh” dollars, they will also increase demands for imports and will be consuming subsidized goods, mainly gas, which will harm the economy rather than benefit it.
We are already draining our reserves to subsidize gas and food and other necessities supposedly for those still getting paid in Lebanese Liras, and inviting tourists to come consume more gas, electricity and subsidized foods and increase the need for imports.
Moreover, the dollars that tourists will exchange at the black market rate will probably end up in people’s homes and won’t benefit the economy much. Add to that the fact that the demand for more Lebanese Liras might cause it to devaluate even further. Check out this thread for more on this topic.
What should we tell the expats?
It’s hard to tell an expat who hasn’t visited his family, friends and his hometown not to travel back and show support, but the reality is encouraging tourism the way the Lebanese authorities are will only backfire and cash more harm than good.
This being said, I believe there are two ways in which expats can really help ease our crisis for this summer:
– The easiest and most efficient way, if one can afford it, would be for them to send fresh dollars to their families or if possible fly them out for a quick vacation and send them back with dollars, meds, goods and supplies.
– If the first option is not feasible for financial reasons or travel/health/logistics restrictions, we should keep encouraging expats to visit and guide them on how they can truly support the people throughout their stay. For that, Al Rawiya published a series of posts on the tips to follow when visiting Lebanon this summer that are on point, and include
1- Buying/Eating local
2- Supporting Local artisanal shops and artists
3- Staying in rural areas/guest houses etc ..
3- Packing bags with OTC meds and other basic supplies
4- And I would also add minimize travel as much as possible.
There’s no clear answer as to how expats can help a country run by incompetents and thieves. We’ve witnessed unprecedented support from the Lebanese communities worldwide in the past couple of years but the Lebanese authorities are working day and night on confiscating every dollar that goes into the country and making our lives even more miserable every day.
One thing is for sure: Lebanon is not yet a “cheap” country as it’s being advertised by some, and is definitely not ready for tourists before we have a government capable of implementing serious reforms. We don’t have electricity, we’re queuing for hours to fill up a gas tank, traffic lights are no longer working, hospitals are missing doctors and meds, and our security situation is uncertain.
One can only hope that we will get back to a normal situation where tourists flock to enjoy our beautiful country and expats come back to reunite with their families and enjoy what Lebanon has to offer.