BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon will soon launch an international tender for the construction of a new terminal at the country’s only international airport in Beirut, a caretaker Cabinet minister said Wednesday, with hopes of accommodating a projected rise in visitors.
The airport had a major facelift after the country’s 1975-90 civil war, and has been working at full capacity for years as the government’s expansion plans have been repeatedly delayed.
Minister of Public Works and Transport Ali Hamie told reporters at the airport that a tender for the $70 million project to build a second terminal at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport is being prepared. He said Terminal 2 will be for chartered and low-cost flights, as well those carrying Muslim pilgrims.
Hamie said the project will be carried out by the private sector and will create hundreds of jobs at a time when Lebanon is in the grips of its worst economic crisis in its modern history.
The airport currently handles 8 million passengers a year, and the plans are to reach 20 million in 2030, according to the website of national carrier Middle East Airlines.
The announcement was made during a visit to the airport by caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati as Lebanon prepares to receive large numbers of travelers in the coming months, after a drop in traffic due to coronavirus pandemic.
Minister of Tourism Walid Nassar said Lebanon will be receiving between 10,000 and 12,000 passengers a day, or about 1 million passengers over the next three months, when hundreds of thousands of Lebanese expatriates and tourists are expected to visit Lebanon.
“Occupancy rates are full at airlines and hotels,” Nassar said, referring to the summer season. “Lebanese expatriates and foreigners who love Lebanon will come to Lebanon and it will be a promising summer.”
Lebanon’s economic crisis that began in October 2019 is rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement by the country’s ruling class. The crisis has left three quarters of the country’s 6 million people, including 1 million Syrian refugees, in poverty.
Business owners are hoping that large numbers of expatriates and tourists during the summer season will help boost their fortunes, which have been hit hard by the crisis and exacerbated by coronavirus and a massive blast at Beirut’s port in August 2020.