Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Beirut: "a hotter tourist destination than Melbourne"

At last the Lebanese have something to smile about.

magazine have released their annual tourist hot spots, with war-torn Beirut still finishing surprisingly well.

The Lebanese capital scored higher than Commonwealth Games 2006 host Melbourne, shocking much of the local media here. Leading Melbourne newspaper, The Age, rans its headline on the story as "Melbourne 'worse than Beirut'" with an image of bombed out Dahiyeh at its side.

The Italian gem of Florence won top prize, but it was Beirut's stubbornness to remain among the best which took the limelight.

The survey is conducted annually by Travel+Leisure of world travellers and is highly considered around the globe.

War with Israel, assassinations, bombings and terrorist incursions have been unable to deter would-be travellers from exploring the Beirut scene. Whilst tourism in Lebanon is expected to hit significant lows this summer, this poll is a warm indication that the world is awaiting the country's return.

Lebanon has a lot of potential, there is no understating that, but the only obstacle thwarting our intention to exploit that potential is the Lebanese. Once they begin to value and appreciate their country as the world obviously does, we will begin to realise our ambitions of peace and prosperity.

The article below:

Melbourne 'worse than Beirut'

July 11, 2007 - 8:56AM

Melbourne has been battered in a respected annual survey of world travellers, ranked behind cities such as Bangkok, Cape Town and Beirut.

Sydney is in the top 10, but is on the slide.

No other Australian cities managed to make Travel+Leisure magazine's Top 10 World's Best Cities poll.

For the second consecutive year Sydney, once the undisputed No. 1 ranked city on the planet, slipped further down the ladder.

The poll, released in the US on Tuesday, ranked Sydney as the fifth best city in the world.

Italy's Florence was voted No. 1, Buenos Aires was second, Bangkok third and Rome fourth.

Last year, Sydney was ranked fourth.

It has been a fall from grace for Sydney as Travel+Leisure's subscribers, who decide the poll, for almost a decade had the harbour city as their top city in the world.

In eight of the last 12 years, Sydney was ranked No. 1.

This year Sydney beat New York (sixth), Udaipur, India (seventh), Istanbul (eighth), San Francisco (ninth) and Cape Town (tenth).

The poll is respected as Travel+Leisure goes to great pains to weed out travel industry professionals from voting. Subscribers are also prevented from voting more than once.

Travel+Leisure did rank the top cities in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, with Sydney easily coming in first with a score of 86.27 out of 100.

Melbourne was second (79.82), with New Zealand trio Queenstown (78.73), Christchurch (76.60) and Wellington (75.43) rounding out the top five.

Although Melbourne's score was up on last year's figure of 79.62, the result still placed it well behind cities such as Bangkok (86.56), Cape Town (84.12) and even Beirut (83.75).

Subscribers were also asked to rate the world's hotels, airlines, islands and cruises.

Australia could not manage one hotel in the top 100, while New Zealand's Huka Lodge, in Taupo, did manage 58th.

India's luxury Oberoi Udaivilas hotel in Udaipur was named the world's best hotel, South Africa's Singita Sabi Sand hotel in the Kruger National Park was second and third was The Oriental in Bangkok.

In the Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific hotel sub-category, Huka Lodge was No. 1, Sydney's Observatory Hotel No. 2, French Polynesia's Bora Bora Lagoon Resort & Spa No. 3and Sydney's Four Seasons Hotel No. 4.

The top ranked Melbourne hotel was the Langham in seventh place and Queensland's top hotel was the Mantra Treetops Resort & Spa in Port Douglas in 13th.

In the islands category, Bali was named the No. 1 island in the world for a holiday, followed by Maui, Kauai and the Galapagos Islands.

The magazine grouped Australia's Great Barrier Reef islands together and they came in as the world's No. 10 island destination.

Singapore Airlines was once again named the top international airline, newcomer MAXjet Airways, an all business-class airline, was second, Emirates third, Cathay Pacific fourth and Thai Airways fifth.

Qantas picked up one spot from last year's survey to claim the seventh position.

Crystal Cruises was the No. 1 ranked large ship cruise line.

AAP with Craig Platt

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