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'Love you in your madness': Lebanon's new tourism slogan sparks backlash online

The new slogan aims to reignite Lebanon's tourism industry. For the country's citizens, however, the phrase appeared more offensive than witty
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati speaks near a slogan that reads "We love you in your madness" displayed on a screen at the government palace in Beirut (Reuters/Dalati Nohra)

Lebanon’s Ministry of Tourism has sparked an outcry after unveiling its controversial new slogan aimed at reinvigorating the country's tourism industry. 

The country’s tourism minister, Walid Nasser, unveiled the new slogan, which translates as "We love you in your madness," at a news conference with senior ministers in Beirut on Thursday.

The slogan was developed free of charge for Lebanon by the Dubai-based company TBWA.

Upon unveiling the new tagline, TBWA chief creative officer Walid Kanaan addressed the crowd saying: "This is our country, a crazy country... crazy in its nightlife, crazy in its food and generosity. And no matter how crazy the situation in Lebanon is, we can only say, 'we love you in your madness'."

Originally a lyric in a song by seminal Lebanese singer Fairuz, the phrase harks back to Lebanon's rich cultural past.

According to Kanaan, the slogan will be displayed on planes of Lebanon's national carrier Middle East Airlines and used in social media campaigns.

The announcement sparked an instant, widespread backlash. Even the country's prime minister, Najib Mikati, was unimpressed.

"If the ministers allow, 'in your madness we love you' - Lebanon is not mad... maybe the way it was managed led to that," he said.

Social media users shared the prime minister's sentiments, perceiving the new slogan as more offensive than witty. 

"Does anyone else feel that they are spitting on us?" read one tweet

Others suggested that the unveiling of a new slogan in order to revive the country's tourism sector is futile when most believe that Lebanon is unwelcoming for its own citizens, let alone for tourists.

Translation: What tourism are you talking about? If the expatriates aren’t stepping in Lebanon, which foreigner would want to come?

With the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic paired with the country's worsening economic crisis, tourism in Lebanon has dramatically declined in recent years.

While around two million tourists visited the country in 2018, official figures suggest that numbers fell to a few hundred thousand in 2020, severely impacting the tourism industry and resulting in thousands of job losses.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.