Summer has hit Beirut and the temperatures are sizzling, as are the prices of entry to the various resorts along our coastline.
The country’s most exclusive resorts have always been overpriced compared to neighboring countries, but over the past few years it seems the cost of most seaside retreats has become well out of reach of many Lebanese hoping to top-up their tans on what, in theory, are ‘public’ beaches.
Still, while complaints over increasing entry fees and dwindling tourist numbers abound, major resorts claim they are not experiencing a decrease in customers. Though both have increased their entry fees, LazyB reports a 30 percent increase in visitors from last year while Edde Sands boasts almost double the clients.
Some beach goers admit to frequenting the beach less than they did last season, while preferring to go to the “luxury beaches” when they do. “When I do go to the beach, I like being pampered and receiving good service. I might be paying a high amount for this, but since I don’t spend every day at the beach, it’s worth it,” says teacher Dania Naamani.
Ziad Abou Nasr, beach lounge manager at Riviera Hotel, believes you get what you pay for: “If you want to eat a falafel sandwich, you pay a small amount and get it. If you want to eat a high quality meal, then you have to pay more. We are not forcing people to come to us,” he says. Abou Nasr says Riviera has also not reported any complaints or decrease in customer numbers.
Too many lira for a lounger
Still, others refuse, or simply cannot afford, to pay those high fees. “I bring my family to AUB Beach because it is free for me (as I work here),” says Hassan Youssef, a staff member at AUB who frequents its beach, which is free for its faculty, staff and students. “Last month, I took them to a beach club in Jiyeh, I paid $70 for entry and food because we weren’t allowed to bring our food with us. Now, I bring them here every weekend, its better.”
Ahmad Khatib, a student, admits to inviting his girlfriend to the beach only during weekdays as the entry fees are a bit less than on the weekends. Youmna Ashi, a young employee, dislikes the idea of paying for entry to a beach meant to be public and purposely avoids such resorts, preferring to head South or North where there are some beaches with free entry, such as Pierre and Friends in Batroun and the public beach in Sour.
Beach resort managers Executive spoke to justified the increases in their prices by citing the increase in the general cost of living in the past three years, which has also affected them as resort managers. Many cited the increased salaries they now have to pay their staff, the added cost of electricity generators and the diesel they run on, and the increased cost of raw material as reasons for the heightened entry fees.
LazyB’s owner George Boustany speaks of the newly added 3,000 square-meter family area as the reason they had to inflate the entry fee. Edde Sands management also speaks of the new bungalows and other improvements they made.
Others, such as Atlas Beach in Jiyeh say they have not increased their prices due to an already challenging season that has seen tourists chased away by unrest both at home and in the region. They hope that keeping the same reasonable prices will attract more clients.
Whether this year’s season will reap any real profit for the beach clubs is unknown. But one thing is certain, the price of a tan in Lebanon has gone up.