The Syrian crisis led to a slump in tourism

16:57, June 30, 2011      

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by Hummam Sheikh Ali

The nearly four-month crisis in Syria has dramatically hit the sector of tourism, which is one of the main earners of hard currency for the country.

The protests that have erupted in the country in mid March have already hurt economy and in turn tourism.

Also, fears are high that the recent sanctions imposed by the European Union on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and other members of the regime for allegedly bloody crackdown on protestors, will mainly hit tourism that has turned to be a profitable industry in itself largely contributing to Syria's economic progress.

The sanctions have prompted Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al- Moallem to hit back at Europe. He said Syria will try to forget that Europe is on the map and "will look east, south and toward every hand that is extended to us."

Bassam Basik, director of investment department of the Ministry of Tourism, told Xinhua by phone "there is a tendency to focus on new markets for tourism in different regions, especially in China, Malaysia and Russia."

Motaz Ahmad, manager of a tourism office in Damascus, said "we are working to organize tours to Malaysia and China and there is demand by people for such trips."

Tourism Ministry's statistics show that 8.5 million tourists visited Syria in 2010, including 440,311 European tourists. Most of the tourists came from Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, with Gulf tourists a close second, followed by Americans and Britons.

Yet, al-Baath newspaper of the ruling Baath party belittled Wednesday the impact of the deteriorating ties between Syria and European Union countries on tourism by saying that the break-up would have a negligible impact on this significant sector in the county.

Tourism in Syria has become an important source of hard currency in the past few years due to new measures taken by Syrian authorities to encourage this sector of Syria's flourishing economy.

A considerable number of private sector tourist companies were set up in the past few years to contribute in promoting tourism in Syria by establishing active tourist relations with international tourist offices and companies.

These companies were given all necessary facilities by the ministry of tourism to bring in foreign tourists.

The most important factor which encourages tourists to come to Syria is the availability of historically valuable sites that are scattered in almost all parts of the Syrian territory.

The country also attracts highly educated European and Asian tourists to visit the country for study purposes.

Al-Baath newspaper said the Syrian tourism has many promising markets other than the Europeans, like China, Russia, India and south America countries, stressing that this would have posed a power factor for the country.

It said the ministry of tourism is now working to increase promotional events in the countries of East and South Asia, Russia and Latin America, in collaboration with the Syrian private sector and its new program in this area.

Source: Xinhua
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