The annual Arabian Travel Market roadshow arrives in Beirut as the country benefits from a spending surge by tourists visiting the popular Middle East destination.

The roadshow is timely, given Beirut’s cash tills are ringing,   as visitors travelling to the Lebanese capital and other key cities across the country shop ‘til they drop, if figures issued by Global Blue, the Lebanese VAT refund operator for international shopper, are anything to go by.

Total spending by tourists to Lebanon increased by 4% in the fourth quarter of 2013, compared to the same period in 2012, Global Blue statistics reveal with Beirut attracting 81% of total spending.

In fact UAE visitors to Lebanon accounted for 15% of total tourist expenditure in Q4, 2013, according to Global Blue, followed by travellers from Saudi Arabia (12%), Egypt and Syria (8% each), Kuwait (7%) and Jordan (6%). International tourists made their mark too, with France accounting for 5% of all tourist expenditure, followed by the US (3%) and Nigeria (2%).

“Lebanon and in particular, its stylish cosmopolitan capital city, Beirut, is a haven for travellers seeking retail therapy, but shopping is just one of the many diverse attractions the destination has to offer,” says Mark Walsh, Portfolio Director, Reed Travel Exhibitions, the organiser of Arabian Travel Market 2014.

“A land of golden beaches, stunning mountain landscapes, ancient cities, archaeological sites, plus al fresco dining and lively nightlife make Lebanon an ever-popular holiday hotspot, with Middle East travellers returning time and again,” he added.

Hotel industry figures also reflect a surge in tourism business to Lebanon, with Beirut reporting the largest increase in occupancy rates of any Middle East market in November 2013, compared to November 2012, rising 22.3% to 43.2%, according to STR Global.

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the travel and tourism industry remains one of Lebanon’s key economic drivers, with direct contribution to GDP of LBP 6,213.8 billion (9.3% of GDP) in 2012, rising by 1.8% to LBP 6,325.5 billion in 2013. The direct contribution of travel & tourism to Lebanon’s GDP is expected to grow by 5.8% per annum to LBP 11,112.9 billion (9.6% of GDP) by 2023.

Lebanon is one of the five Middle East destinations being visited by the ATM team during its week-long roadshow which kicked off last week in Manama and also takes in Kuwait, Muscat, Riyadh and Dubai.

Current and potential exhibitors visited during the roadshow will learn about new event features including its 2014 theme, the luxury travel sector, with the seminar programme in particular focusing on this important trend.

Lebanon’s tourism industry will be out in force at this year’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM) with the Lebanon Ministry of Tourism’s stand covering some 250 square metres. Major exhibitors include Anastasia Travel and Tourism and Supreme Services.

This year’s ATM has chosen a luxury theme a topic, which is particularly relevant to Dubai and the rest of the Gulf region, with trails relating to shopping, career, budget, health and wellness, air and water travel.

The popular ATM seminars return covering technology and other key industry issues such as luxury travel trends, aviation, Expo 2020, CSR and mid-scale hotels.

New this year is a showcase theatre, which offers exhibitors the opportunity to present their products and services in one hour sessions and the ATM Live Wall, which will show live streaming of interviews and other show highlights.

Arabian Travel Market 2014 will take place from the 5-8 May at the Dubai International Convention & Exhibition Centre, with an additional hall. Last year, ATM welcomed over 21,000 visitors and participants from 165 countries, covering 22,000 square metres of floor space.