Assad regime invites tourists to Syria
Against the run of travel warning about war-torn Syria, President Bashar al-Assad regime is wooing international tourists, urging them to visit.
The regime is serious about the campaign as it advertises Aleppo, along with other cities in Syria, as ‘tourist destinations, at the Fitur International Tourism Trade Fair in Madrid.
Syria has not attended the fair since 2011. Whether the campaign will draw visitors remains to be seen.
Along with the ruins of Aleppo, Syria also encourages people to visit the ancient Roman-era ruins of Palmyra, the UNESCO-listed archaeological site which was twice controlled by the Islamic State (IS) group.
IS fighters blew up some of the temples and burial towers before being forced out of the city for the final time last year by Syrian government forces and their Russian backers
“This year is the time to rebuild Syria and our economy,” Bassam Barsik, director of marketing at the Syrian Ministry of Tourism, told AFP.
Barsik said 1.3 million foreign visitors travelled to Syria last year, although that figure includes those who came from neighbouring Lebanon for only one day.
“We’re targeting two million visitors this year,” he said.
He argued that religious destinations, such as the historic Christian town of Maaloula, one of the last places on earth where Aramaic is still spoken, are still a draw to tourists.
Damascus, Tartus, Latakia and the historic Crusader castle of Krak des Chevaliers close to the border with Lebanon, although damaged by bombing, are other possible attractions.
“In 2017, the army controlled much of the country, and that was a big help to promote Syria abroad and attract tourist groups again,” said Barsik.
Most countries advise citizens against all travel to Syria.
The war has displaced millions of people and is estimated to have claimed the lives of at least 340,000 people since 2011.
*originally reported by AFP