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Jad Baaklini 04 Apr 2014

Tourism, Travel and Love: Measuring Lebanon’s Ego and Insecurities

Let’s admit it, Lebanon. We obsess over rankings a little too much. Should we really care what The Daily Beast thinks of us, or how ‘selfie-ish’ our capital is, or is purported to be?

Of course, it’s hard not to be curious, and some lists — like this one, on women in politics — can certainly be helpful when applying pressure on policymakers. It’s also nice to know that we’re doing okay in some sectors too.

And yet, there’s always more than one way to interpret data. Here are three rankings that generated some buzz online; what else can they tell us?

1. Measuring the Tourist Economy

In a country where it’s estimated that 37.6% of our GDP in 2010 came from tourism, we kinda like knowing that people visit us. Who needs to diversify the economy when the arrivals gate is such a sure indicator of national prosperity?

The importance of tourism to the national economy explains why we get mad at the Daily Beast or feel relief when people like our food. It also explains why the Ministry of Tourism will jump at any chance to provide evidence of a job well done.

Last year, readers of Condé Nast Traveler voted Beirut number 20 out of 25 ‘Top Cities of the World.’ Well, shucks, thank you 79,268 randomly-selected subscribers of this particular award-winning travel magazine! You totally get it, unlike that other award-winning publication. We’re really looking forward to reading your opinion in 2014. Given that you didn’t quite like Beirut enough to up-vote us in 2012, who knows what insights you’ll bring this year!

I guess what I’m trying to say is: I don’t read travel magazines.

2. Valuing the Lebanese Passport

(Introducing: The Lebanese passport tote bag)

Lebanese people also sometimes enjoy visiting other places, so knowing which countries require what of us is both practical and sensible. So this ranking is actually quite practical. As a citizen of Lebanon, you can choose from 180 visas to apply to across the globe. Citizens of the US, UK and Finland, for example, only get to apply to 7, decreasing their bureaucratic negotiation skills significantly. Only Afghanistan tops us, with 190 ways to learn about border regimes.

So stop complaining about the passport! No pain, no gain. Go hard, or go home. This is how we build resilience! Or, at the very least, this is how we find out which immigration process is most profitable.

3. Quantifying Love <3

Another perk of being Lebanese is the world’s interest in your affairs. On any given day, you will bump into one or more researchers interested in many things. They’ll usually ask you about the war, or politics, or some other thorny social issue. If you’re a taxi driver, you may be asked about all three.

But one day, someone will show up and ask you: “Did you experience love for a lot of the day yesterday?” That will be your chance to smile and say: ‘akeed! Ma ana bheb el hayet!’ (Of course! I love life). Then someone will find this data and compile a very interesting list that reveals how, despite all the other terrible things other researchers ask you about, you live in a country with widespread feelings of love. Isn’t science amazing?

My interest is certainly piqued, pollsters. Now let’s try that again, but this time please get Haddaway to ask the question.