TRAVEL AGENCIES

Lebanon 2017 | TOURISM | B2B

Long-time leaders in the travel business are continuously adapting to oscillating travel trends, and evolution has produced strong players in Lebanon's tourism industry who can withstand recent challenges—and even thrive.

Nadine Kurban Boutros
NADINE KURBAN BOUTROS
Managing Director
Kurban Travel
Elie Nakhal
ELIE NAKHAL
General Manager
Nakhal

You have been an industry leader for almost 60 years. How has the company evolved over the years?

NADINE KURBAN BOUTROS Kurban Group is a family business that handles travel, tourism, and transportation. We have three divisions in travel: corporate business, large groups such as corporate groups or weddings, and a leisure division with three branches. We handle all destinations but mostly sell packages to surrounding areas. We have a great deal of tailor-made business as well for outbound travel. Travel has become ubiquitous today because the world has changed and there are many low-cost companies entering the market. Our biggest business is in low-cost travel. We have a call center open 24/7 for our customers as well as an online portal for bookings for both B2B and B2C. This will be the company's future in the coming years. In terms of inbound travel, we used to handle thousands of people, but have seen difficult times in the last 10 years. However, this year we see an increase in potential and requests from groups. There is increased interest in people coming here to get married, as well as more MICE tourism and corporate travel. On our end, handling inbound is easy. We have the largest fleet of cars in Lebanon, with Avis Rent-A-Car and Budget Rent-A-Car. We have cars, limousines, buses, and minibuses. We also have a taxi company called Allo Taxi.

ELIE NAKHAL Nakhal has always specialized in all forms of tourism, outgoing and incoming. At a certain point we had to go beyond issuing normal tickets. Over the years we have dealt with most of the destinations that are now popular and common in Lebanon, including Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Egypt, as well as other destinations in Europe. We have many programs from Beirut going to all of these areas, including Spain, France, Italy, the Czech Republic, Austria, and Croatia. We have more than 30 destinations that we fly to via charter flights. This is the easiest way to get where you are going. People from our company welcome clients and take care of their accommodation as well as any possible problems. We have the same here in Lebanon. We see people from all over the world. Presently, we have people coming from Arab countries, Turkey, Egypt, and other neighboring countries. We see many more of these tourists than those from Europe. Our agents in these countries promote programs. We do not promote the company, but instead the country.

What are your goals over the next year?

NKB Our expectations are definitely obvious by our plans, where we have budgeted a large increase in terms of turnover in the inbound business. I cannot say what our market share is, as the sector has not kept records for the last 10 years. However, we are one of the major tour operators in Lebanon. Our priority is to maintain turnover and attract more people to Lebanon. We want to handle a larger amount of tourists coming to Lebanon.

EN The first is to expand. In 2017, we purchased an airline that had been working for us for many years. This is a big investment in terms of money as well as the future. Our aim is to upgrade Wings of Lebanon in a way to match the needs of our clientele. The second thing for 2017 that we will concentrate on is online booking on our systems. We have systems that are older than 10 years. They were put to use first by our own staff. Then these systems were open to all travel agents in Lebanon. As we work with most agents in Lebanon, we gave them access to our online systems. Now we promote these systems directly to the public. In this way, clients can make their own bookings, either with the airline and flights that we have, or to our hotels or packages that we have. This is the focus of 2017.