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Lebanon 2019 | TOURISM | INTERVIEW

Lebanon's hospitality sector is undergoing a mini renaissance, driven by a growing MICE sector and increased interest in the country's traditional tourism offerings.

Manrique Rodriguez
BIOGRAPHY
Manrique Rodriguez graduated from the Glion Institute of Higher Education in Switzerland and began his career in 1988 as a management trainee in Venezuela and went on to build a more than three-decade career within the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG). His many General Manager roles to date have taken him across the globe, including positions in Australia, North America, and Brazil. Rodriguez joined Phoenicia from his most recent post as General Manager of InterContinental Madrid, which he held for the previous eight years.

What are your expectations for the hospitality sector in 2019?

I have positive expectations for the rest of the year; the first quarter was promising, and we are confident it will continue this way. We were fortunate to start 2019 by hosting the Arab Economic Summit; Lebanon is increasingly becoming a MICE destination and hosting regional congresses and conferences. Talking about the leisure segment, we are seeing a “back to the roots" type of tourism with greater demand from tourists from the Latin American market, particularly from Brazil, coming to discover their roots and heritage. We are also witnessing a high demand from the GCC, mainly from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait and expect to maintain this continuous growth, especially in summer and until the end of the year. Finally, with the support of new direct flights, we are seeing a rise in the number of tourists from the European market such as Spain and the Netherlands. Lebanon has so much to offer that it has something for everyone. One of the prime draws is always the rich heritage of the country, but it has been also seen as a lively culinary and wine destination, as well as a creative art hub with a vibrant nightlife.

Can you tell us more about Phoenicia Hotel's long-standing history?

Built in 1961, Phoenicia Beirut became the first InterContinental Hotel in the Middle East. Since then and following the re-opening in March 2000, Phoenicia has always welcomed guests with the epitome of hospitality gaining its position as the region's flagship hotel. In 2011, the hotel celebrated its 50th anniversary with interior enhancements by internationally renowned designers. In the last few years, the hotel has hosted high-ranking diplomatic delegations, particularly in the period following the presidential elections. And we are proud to have recently won Lebanon's Leading Business Hotel at the World Travel Awards as well as Best Business Hotel in Beirut at the Business Traveler Middle East Awards 2019.

Can you give us an overview of the hotel's offerings and coming goals?

Between the Phoenician, Roman, and Residence towers, guests have the choice of 480 rooms and suites that can suit every taste. For InterContinental Club members, the Phoenicia Club, located in the Phoenician tower, is designed to meet every business or leisure requirement that may arise, ensuring a personalized treatment all throughout. We also offer an array of dining options including a wealth of world cuisine at Mosaic Restaurant's decadent buffet, international bites at Cascade Lobby Lounge, or at Amethyste, our outdoor pool lounge, as well as fresh Italian cuisine at the recently opened Rossini Osteria e Caffè. We proudly consider ourselves a business hotel hosting various international conferences and exhibitions. Our 11 meeting rooms and grand ballroom are equipped with the latest technology and can fit 20 to 2,000 people depending on the group size. We also offer Eau De Vie as a private event space bespoke for meetings and gatherings, set against Beirut's most stunning sea views. And, finally, to enhance guests' experience, SPA Phoenicia offers tailored treatments, from holistic massages to healing therapies. And finally, for the coming year, we are still working on promoting Lebanon as a MICE destination and focusing on weddings. The hotel is traditionally known for its royal and lavish weddings so we continue to concentrate our efforts in this segment.