Posts Tagged ‘beirut



This is dedicated to the many who still believe that the few can make a difference.

You’re alive when you’re 53 years old, sit next to a 26 years old, and feel he’s reached 53 and you’re back to 26. This is the essence of the elixir of youth. And that is what I miss in Lebanon. That is what I never found in Lebanon. Never, until now.

TEDx is my fountain of youth, where I go to quench the my thirst for eternal rejuvenation.

I never felt at ease with people of my age, and I never understood why. And then, last year, at the first TEDx event, I saw the light. There is a child in me.

Children do not seek higher goals. That does not make them less achievers than the rest of us. That does not make them any less inspired than the rest of us. And, for sure, that does not make them less motivated either.

TED is not food for thought. There is no food for thought. When everyone else looks, you see; when everyone else hears, you listen, and when everyone else feed their thoughts, you act. And that is it. That is all what TED is all about.

And I can prove it.

Just imagine for a while the licensee of TEDx Beirut indulging in “food for thought”, pondering the idea, sleeping on it for a while… I would be 90 and still looking for a 26 years old to sit next to.

In a country where hope is more prohibited than smoking, inspiration becomes “food for soul”. And someone had the guts to do it. Someone had the will to share. Someone had the insight to bring in the 53s’ and 26s’ together and let the former fuel their life, and the latter grow their horizon, both ignited by the same passion; the passion to confirm that it is indeed the end that justifies the means in a simile-nation where it’s the means that justify the end.

The next TEDx is around the corner. The yearly fountain of eternal youth is here again to inject a 26 in my 53. And the child in me is packed and ready to go.

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© 2012 Ibrahim Lahoud


Check please… Really

A week ago, I was having lunch at a restaurant in Beirut. When done, I call up the waiter for the check using the universally recognized gesture of the raised hand and two fingers simulating writing… The guy got me a pen!

I appreciate hiring amateur students and what have you as waiters to make some extra bucks. What I don’t like is when the outlet management is more amateur than those they hire!

Oh, I understand. With the riches in which Lebanon basks, like oil, gas, industry, export and others, hospitality is a detail… I mean, why would we need to invest in that industry as if it was our sole source of decent income!


Our beloved Minister of Tourism shows up on TV desperately and pathetically defending himself over the Gemmayzeh Decibel level. How about he gets busy solving the rising moronic level of the hospitality industry! How about we lay some simple, easy to understand, rules that govern how outlets hire front office staff? How about we ask for a minimum of knowledge from a Lebanese applying for a waiter job, like… mum… say speak Arabic?? Or smile? Or know that a raised hand and two fingers simulating writing means “Check please”?… Really?!

We excel at one more thing in this country: The fast buck! We think that a nice logo, outdoor sign and a totally stupid smile at the door is enough to generate a pleasant experience.

Well let me tell you, if this is what people are looking for, I would open a “restaurant” made out of two doors back to back, one entry and one exit,m with a great logo, a wonderful sign and a smiling babe greeting you. You pay, and get the hell out through the second door right away! How about that for an experience? Hein??

Idiots! An experience includes the orgasm!!!!

Yes, I like a good brand. Yes, a visible sign would help. The smile at the door? Priceless… but… Have you ever heard of “service”, “quality”? AND, the raised hand and two fingers simulating writing that means “check please”?… Really??

For many of those idiots who misread my third paragraph above, put your shades on cave bats, I’m going to shed some light on the facts:

NO, we do not have oil,

NO, we do not have gas,

NO, we do not have industries,

NO, we do not have exports… well yeah, people, but that’s another chapter.

All we have are politicians, not much to put a country’s goodwill out. We also have “citizens” who don’t even know how to draw their own country’s flag. Thank God we don’t carry the Brazilian flag; we deserve the Libyan one! And.. we have tourism and hospitality.

Now, let’s see. Tourism; the country where you can ski and swim at the same time… Yeah, and no one ever asked why?! Simple, because by the time you leave Faraya in December heading for the beach, you’re guaranteed to get there by June! Tourism is not an industry in Lebanon. It is as archeological as archeology itself. Haphazard lame advertising campaigns promoting “what we sell” instead of who we are. Tourism is not about sea, sand and sun (and sex). It is not about archeology. It is not about food. It is about IDENTITY. Now you tell me, what is our identity? The one we need to sell to create our touristic platform? Name online please… I dare you!

Hospitality? I guess that the problems lies deep within our knowledge of the language. No schmucks! Hospitality has got nothing to do with hospitals! Is that why we’re selling Lebanon as the prime destination for cosmetic surgery??! Is it?

What happened to Raoucheh, Jeita grotto, Beiteddine, Rabbits’ islands, Maameltein… Oops! Sorry, we all know what happened to this one! Another linguistic misunderstanding, we actually thought that “warm welcome” meant “reaaaally” warm… Thank God we did not word it in typical Lebanese “hot welcome”…

So, we’re left with Downtown, Gemmayzeh, nightlife, belly buttons, (fake) boobs, in-your-face sweaty arm pits and some 60’s smiling faces.

Reality is that underneath this layer, hides a crave… “My” crave to be able to call a place “my” country, be able to describe it in 2 words instead of a dissertation that gets into the existentialist reasoning of war stigmatized citizens.

I have a crave to talk about this place without having to insert the word Zionist, or “Amrica al shaytan”, or Syria the occupier, or International tribunal, or Northern Emirate, or security belt, or Solidere, or UNIFIL or trees…

I have a crave to stop calling this place “this place” and start calling it home…

Until then, please give a decent place to eat, a pleasant corniche to walk at, a “free” beach to watch the sunset, or an archeological site that does not come with beads sellers, Sudanese nuts and begging gypsies. Can you? Can you do that at least?

Oh, and please, kindly remember, a raised hand and two fingers simulating writing means “Check please”… Really.


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.


January 2020
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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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