BRAND ARABIA – The Lebanon metamorphosis

Interview done with the media last July

National rebranding efforts to accelerate Lebanon’s transformation into modern tourist and business hub

Public figures and citizens urged to serve as ‘Brand Ambassadors’ in line with creative initiatives to promote Lebanon, says branding expert

Lebanon is emerging as one of the few positive stories in 2009 with remarkable growth in its tourism industry and overall economy, according to a branding expert. Concerted nationwide rebranding initiatives will help further accelerate Lebanon’s transformation into one of the world’s premier tourist and business destinations, as the government and the business sector need to take advantage of new developments to collaborate in creating fresher and more attractive images for “Brand Lebanon,” said Ibrahim Lahoud, Director of Strategy and Brand Communication, BrandCentral.

Lahoud pointed out that national rebranding efforts will have a dramatic impact in redefining the way the world looks at this key Middle Eastern country, helping promote Lebanon as a major business and tourism destination like Brazil, Greece and Turkey. He also noted several gaps in the promotion of Lebanon, particularly in the area of tourism wherein a great number of people around the world are still unaware that Lebanon has so much more to offer than its cedar trees. As such, Lahoud recommended the establishment of a dedicated initiative to consolidate branding initiatives of the public and private sectors with the aim of regaining Lebanon’s status as an economic powerhouse in the region and creating awareness about Lebanon’s strong potential to be a “Class A destination” for both business and tourism.

Another key measure that will enhance “Brand Lebanon” as a business destination according to Lahoud is to create dedicated districts that cater to various business and technological pursuits such as IT parks, banking and financial centres, and other business-centric development projects. Moreover, he emphasised the important role of prominent public figures such as singers and actors as well as ordinary citizens to serve as “Brand Ambassadors” of Lebanon.

“Lebanon is one of the rare success stories of the global financial crisis. Branding efforts focusing on its unique geography and way of life have opened up numerous opportunities in growth areas such as tourism, banking and construction, which continue to generate substantial capital from internal and external investors. Another important milestone that underscores the importance of branding strategies is the recent top-ranking performance of Beirut in an exclusive list of places to go in 2009, which has certainly boosted Lebanon’s image as a leading leisure, lifestyle and business destination,” said Lahoud.

“Furthermore, it is critically important to maintain the momentum generated by the country as a tourist hotspot and a safe and secure business destination. As such, there is an urgent need to develop more specific branding ideas and strategies that will further excite the world over the positive transformation of Lebanon. Although the Lebanese economy has gained so much this year, it is important to remember that competition remains tough as ever with other international travel and business destinations likewise aiming to improve their own stake in the global market. Our goal is to ensure that ‘Brand Lebanon’ remains firmly entrenched in the consciousness of our target audiences all over the world,” added Lahoud.

Lahoud noted that significant achievements of the country need to be promoted vigorously to further enhance Lebanon’s image as one of the most inspiring success stories in the midst of the global economic downturn. He further pointed out that the Lebanese economy has been projected to enjoy GDP growth of 3 per cent in 2009 and 4 per cent in 2010, according to the latest issue of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) bi-annual World Economic Outlook (WEO), even as the Lebanese Government expects a much more impressive 6 per cent growth this year. Lebanon’s projected growth rate in 2009 easily eclipses the average growth in the Middle East (2.5 per cent) and among emerging and developing countries (1.6 per cent), while performing way above advanced economies and the world economy, which will record average negative growth rates at -3.8 per cent and -1.9 per cent, respectively.

On the other hand, a recent report by London-based investment firm Blakeney Investors has described Lebanon as a safe banking haven because of abundant liquidity and unprecedented inflow of deposits; the same report also highlighted Moody’s upgrade of Lebanon’s local and foreign currency government bond ratings at a time when several countries around the world have been downgraded. Lebanon’s tourism sector also achieved dramatic growth, enjoying a 56.8 per cent surge in tourist arrivals for a total of 434,418 visitors in the first four months of 2009 compared with the same period in 2008.

Lebanon’s tourism industry is expected to generate around 9.3 per cent of the country’s GDP and account for about 9.6 per cent of total domestic employment in 2009. It is also projected to provide indirect revenues worth USD 7.78 billion and indirectly create around 439,600 jobs or at least one out of every 3.6 jobs within the year, equivalent to 28.1 per cent of total employment.

Lebanon’s diverse and captivating natural resources, particularly its mountains, world-renowned cedar forests, and beaches, have helped earn the country a reputation as a travel haven. Other factors that continue to attract local, regional and global travellers are its excellent dining establishments; hospitable citizens; significant improvements in travel infrastructure through the Beirut International Airport and Lebanon’s official carrier Middle East Airlines; and abundance of artistic pursuits involving film, music, food and design, among others.

Beirut, on the other hand, has topped the global list of “The 44 Places to go in 2009” published recently by the New York Times. The Lebanese capital edged out popular tourist destinations such as Washington, D.C., Galapagos, Las Vegas and Hawaii by garnering consistently high ratings in all criteria, which included Luxury, Ecology, Family, Frugality, Food, Culture, and Party. The top ranking affirms Lebanon’s success in rebranding itself as a regional and global tourism hub and advances Beirut’s goal of reinforcing its title as “The Paris of the Middle East.”

BrandCentral Beirut has been a key contributor in promoting Lebanon as a leading regional and international travel and tourism gateway.  The consultancy provides turnkey solutions for brand development, corporate identity, and strategic design. Its mission is to provide a thoroughly positive impression of a company or product to existing and potential customers.


4 Responses to “BRAND ARABIA – The Lebanon metamorphosis”

  1. July 12, 2010 at 15:30

    Excellent post..a truly enjoyable read. Reconfirms that I made the right decision in choosing to move to Lebanon from Miami 7 months ago..all it took was a week in Beirut in October of last year..and that was it – I was hopelessly in love..two months later, I packed my bags and made the move..much to the shock of my friends and family. But in Lebanon, I have found myself.

    It’s funny, I have this month’s edition of Communicate Magazine right next to me, and after I read this post, I turned to the article titled, “Raising Lebanon’s profile – Lebanon needs more than hot air to boost its branding bubble..” and saw your name as one of the feature’s contributors. In the article it says that before “Brand Lebanon” is to be marketed, it must first be identified. The author then goes on to site examples such as “I need Spain” and “Incredible India”..I imagine it must be very difficult to, in one sentence or phrase, sum up all that Lebanon is… Experience Lebanon..Live Lebanon..

    I started my blog in the hopes that one day, my friends and family would come to visit me. I frequently make comparisons to our lives in Miami, and find myself saying things such as “You see, it’s just like Miami!” Attracting international travelers will always prove to be a difficult task, but I think the recent influx of positive PR has helped Lebanon’s image..now if only we could convince the BBC and CNN not to jump on every opportunity to damage Lebanon’s reputation, we might get somewhere..

    • July 12, 2010 at 22:20

      Hi Danielle,

      Thank you for your lovely comment. This is an amazing coincidence as i know Miami very very well. I have family there and do go visit often 🙂
      We are indeed in an eternal search to define Lebanon’s brand. This was a humble contribution to the quest. I had a look at your blog and loved it too. It’s finally people like us that can make a substantial difference at the end.

      Stay in touch and happy reading! 🙂

    • July 12, 2010 at 22:35

      Hi Danielle,

      Thanks for your nice comments, retweets, recommendation and everything else 🙂
      It’s a nice coincidence since I am very familiar with Miami. I do visit frequently and it is indeed one of my favorite places in the US. JUst like any brand, the more you get to know Miami, the more you love it!

      We are indeed in a continuous search for the evasive brand Lebanon, and this was just a humble attempt to contribute to the quest.

      Stay in touch and happy reading,

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Reason To Believe by Ibrahim N. Lahoud is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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