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Syria seeks to revitalize tourism, ignoring ongoing risks of civil war

Syria seeks to increase tourist visits in 2018, ignoring risks of civil war
Across Syria, buildings lie in ruin. Millions have fled their homes. And historic sites have been shattered, either by military bombardment or at the hands of ISIS, The New York Times newspaper reported.

But Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad regime was hoping that foreign visitors would look past that devastation, as they promoted the country at an international tourism fair in Spain.

While government officials say the country is experiencing a modicum of stability, the government has regained control of much of the territory lost in recent years to the opposition, the push for tourism risks drawing criticism for ignoring the fallout of the yearslong war that has razed much of Syria.

Before the country’s conflict began in 2011, Syria was home to an array of tourist landmarks, from Aleppo’s citadel to the Roman-era ruins of Palmyra, and the travel sector was a major part of its economy. Many of those sites, however, have been badly damaged or destroyed entirely by the ongoing war. The widespread insecurity throughout the conflict has meant most governments advise their citizens against travel to Syria.

The country is hoping to change that. Officials from the tourism ministry attended the Fitur International Tourism Trade Fair in Madrid in the hopes of attracting visitors back to the country.

“This year is the time to rebuild Syria and our economy,” Bassam Barsik, director of marketing at the Syrian Ministry of Tourism, said in Madrid.

Mr. Barsik said 1.3 million foreign visitors traveled to Syria last year, although that figure includes those who came from neighboring Lebanon for only one day. He said officials hoped to raise the number of visitors to two million in 2018.

Still, the push for tourists risks courting a backlash.

Syria has only just begun to emerge from a devastating civil war that began in early 2011 when the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.

Last Modified: Sunday، 21 January 2018 03:54 PM