Show must go on for Lebanon's struggling event planners

Mon Oct 7, 2013 10:18am EDT
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By Stephen Kalin

BEIRUT (Reuters) - In unpredictable Lebanon, now caught up in the spillover from Syria's civil war, the business of planning conferences, exhibitions and luxury weddings is not for the faint-hearted.

But Lebanese organizers of such events - money spinners in the tiny country's vital tourism-oriented service sector - say they are determined to keep going, despite the risk of having to postpone or cancel when political turmoil or violence strike.

The last two years, punctuated by Syria-linked bombings, clashes and a huge influx of refugees, have been particularly bad for enterprises so sensitive to the political temperature.

"We're waiting, we're praying for a good season," said Alain Hadife, whose Caractere company plans luxury events.

Extravagant weddings and corporate events in Lebanon are down 45 percent, he said, with Gulf Arab clients who had once contracted for lavish multi-day weddings scared away.

The slump has cost many ancillary jobs.

"The Lebanese caterer isn't working, the Lebanese waiter isn't working, the Lebanese photographer isn't working. No one is working," Hadife told Reuters.

Like others who do not rely solely on Lebanon as a venue, he says international events are sustaining his business - although he still plans local events that are hostage to uncertainty.   Continued...