Samir Chalfoun is the Founder and CEO of Blue Ocean Creations and a 2018 alumnus of Les Roches Marbella. Today, Samir is busy refocusing BOC to assist the recovery of Lebanon’s hospitality and tourism industry through an innovative solidarity initiative called Staycation Lebanon. Continue reading to learn more about his efforts.
Beirut based Les Roches alumnus, Samir Chalfoun, remembers how the first guest lecturer he heard while studying the Master’s in Marketing Management for Luxury Tourism inspired him to pursue what would eventually become Blue Ocean Creations. The guest was Quentin Desurmont, CEO and founder of Peplum and Traveller Made, and upon listening to his passion for hospitality, Samir immediately realized there was a gap for luxury travel in the Lebanese market. Since that day in class in 2017, Samir has been building on Blue Ocean Creations (BOC), an experiential travel company revolving around personalization and experience curation.
Samir explains how Blue Ocean Creations was conceived as a hub that links the dots to the luxury travel and hospitality services Lebanon’s high net individuals were missing. Up until the onset of Covid-19 and later, on August 4th, the deadly explosion in Beirut, Samir’s agency served as a luxury advisor to discerning travelers seeking curated experiences outside of Lebanon. However, due to the devastating economic crisis and political uncertainty in Lebanon, Samir decided to leverage BOC to push forward a much-needed concept, an inter-tourism brand & platform that allows locals to (re)discover and enjoy their country while supporting local communities. From here, Staycation Lebanon by Blue Ocean Creations was born. According to Samir, “Staycation proudly collaborates with local communities and partners for the joint benefit of optimizing, elevating, and sustaining the inter-tourism industry in Lebanon.”
Blue Ocean Creations Presents: Experience Lebanon
After the August 4th explosion that wreaked havoc across Beirut and claimed multiple lives, the economic situation in Lebanon has worsened and no sector has been hit as hard as the country’s growing hospitality and tourism industry. In 2018, tourism accounted for 7% of Lebanon’s GDP, or US$3.8 billion. In 2020, the IMF says the country’s GDP will shrink by 12%, and this presents several challenges for the Hospitality sector to overcome.
In addition to Staycation Lebanon’s work to promote local tourism, its parent company, Blue Ocean Creations – with its prominent role in the hospitality sector – has partnered with the Lebanese Syndicate of Owners of Restaurants, Cafés, Nightclubs & Pastries to raise funds for businesses that were affected in Mar Mikhael and Gemayze. All proceeds will go directly to the members of the Syndicate, where the funds will be distributed among those establishments in both areas.
Asked about how BOC got involved in this initiative, Samir said, “As new players in the hospitality and tourism industry we wanted to assume our social responsibility. What we noticed is that after the explosion that happened in Beirut a lot of help came through (food, material, money etc..). We decided to step back and monitor how things developed to see where the gap was and to fill it properly. What we noticed on the ground was that a big part of the help provided was shortterm. This was very useful at the beginning but less in the long run since help will not be provided forever.”
BOC Social Responsibility Campaign for Lebanon
Samir continued by mentioning, “With the economic situation in Lebanon where the LBP has been devalued almost five times since October 2019, those who lost their businesses and jobs did not have the chance to reconsider building them. Yes, they did receive shelter and food donations but what was missing were the tools for them to get back their livelihoods and be able to live the rest of their lives with dignity, without seeking help.”
“They did receive shelter and food donations but what was missing were the tools for them to get back their livelihoods and be able to live the rest of their lives with dignity, without seeking help.””
Once the collaborative effort between BOC and the syndicate was established, Samir put his team to work to create promotional material, a video, and a website needed to begin. The fundraising campaign is now in its third month and Samir welcomes donations from his fellow Les Roches Alumni and readers of the blog who wish to help out. Please visit http://www.savemarmikhael-gemayze.com to learn how you can donate to this cause.
Looking forward, Samir does not try to gloss over the severity of the crisis at hand. We asked him how the hospitality and tourism industry in Lebanon will recover and he said, “This is the hardest time for the hospitality industry in decades; a lot of businesses have been forced to shut down and others have had to adapt to the situation, sometimes taking draconian measures to survive. Recovery hinges on a much needed re-assessment of the sector in order to better understand things like new booking behaviours, buyer personas and human behaviour post COVID-19. Also, new strategies should be implemented depending on the outcomes of the reassessment. On another hand flexibility is key in these times of uncertainty, booking and pricing processes should be re-worked according to he new era that we are living in. Health and safety concerns should also be addressed properly and made clear for the customer to ensure they feel safe.
“Finally each person should assume his or her responsibility toward their country; since travel is much harder and people are not flying as much as before. Local citizens should help the hospitality industry to survive in order to keep the tourism flow alive because sometimes small and traditional businesses are a major factor in the tourism industry. Staycation is a very good way to support local communities and small businesses since most people have never taken the time to properly visit the their own country and the hidden gems in it.”