Al Habtoor-owned Beirut hotel reopens after suffering port blast damage

The five-star Hilton Beirut Metropolitan Palace was one of many hospitality venues hit by the 2020 explosion

Khalaf Al Habtoor said he was hopeful that the nearby Le Mall Sin El Fil in Beirut could be reopened soon. Getty Images
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A major Beirut hotel, owned by the UAE-based Al Habtoor Group, has reopened.

It closed after suffering severe damage in Beirut's port blast that killed more than 215 people on August 4, 2020.

Group chairman Khalaf Al Habtoor, a prominent UAE businessman, said he was hopeful that the nearby Le Mall Sin El Fil in Beirut could also reopen soon, after closing in March 2020 amid Lebanon’s economic downturn.

The five-star Hilton Beirut Metropolitan Palace welcomed visitors back on December 30 in the Beirut suburb of Sin El Fil.

Writing on Twitter, Mr Al Habtoor said he loved Lebanon and was “very disturbed by the deteriorating economic conditions”. He added that part of his desire to get the hotel running again was to support hundreds of families.

Al Habtoor Group also owns the adjacent Hilton Beirut Habtoor Grand, which only briefly closed after the 2020 explosion.

Le Mall Sin El Fil, part of a wider chain in the country, had closed in the months after Lebanon’s economic collapse had first become apparent.

The building was owned by Al Habtoor, but leased and operated by Acres Development, itself a subsidiary of retail group Azadea. Acres Devlopment still operates two Le Mall branches in Dbayeh, just north of Beirut, and in the southern city of Saida.

“The decision comes amid deteriorating economic conditions in Lebanon which have negatively impacted household spending in a wide range of sectors, coupled with a difficulty importing from abroad, in light of the financial crisis, and a lack of bank facilitations,” Acres had said in 2020 when it announced the closures.

Al Habtoor Group said at the time that it respected the decision by parent firm Azadea, adding that the move “is at the sole discretion of Azadea Group, as investor of the mall. This is a decision taken by the Azadea Group’s management and is not related to the rent of the premises”.

The explosion, Lebanon’s financial downturn and the Covid-19 pandemic meant that the country’s hospitality sector has taken a severe hit in recent years.

The Phoenicia Hotel, arguably Beirut’s most famous, reopened last September after closing following the pandemic.

An economic crisis that first became apparent in 2019 has pushed many into poverty in Lebanon and severely affected the average persons spending power. Inflation is rampant but wages have not adjusted, with the local currency losing more than 95 per cent of its value against the US dollar on the parallel market in import-dependent Lebanon.

Updated: January 04, 2023, 2:17 PM