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Tourism in Syria
Although Syria has some of the oldest cities in Western Asia, such as Damascus and Aleppo (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), tourism in Syria has greatly reduced as a result of the Syrian Civil War, that began in 2011 and is ongoing, and its associated refugee crisis. Tourism has been further impacted by the outbreak of COVID-19 starting in March 2020. The international economic sanctions imposed on Syria and the sharp drop in the value of the Syrian pound (SYP) also adversely impact tourism in Syria. The Ministry of Tourism is the responsible government department.
Old and new Aleppo
Before the start of the Syrian Civil War, 8.5 million tourists visited Syria in 2010, who brought in tourist revenue estimated at 30.8 billion SYP (US$8.4 billion, at 2010 rates), and accounted for 14% of the country's economy. By 2015, the number of tourists had declined by more than 98%.
Many tourist attractions have been damaged or destroyed by shelling, flights by all major airlines have been suspended, and many major tourist hotels have closed. It is estimated that considerable investment will be necessary to revive Syria’s tourism industry.[1][2][3][4]
Overview
Before the 2011 crisis
Non-Arab visitors to Syria reached 1.1 million in 2002, which includes all visitors to the country, not just tourists.[5] The total number of Arab visitors in 2002 was 3.2 million, most from Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq.[5] Many Iraqi businesspeople set up ventures in Syrian ports to run import operations for Iraq, causing an increased number of Iraqis visiting Syria in 2003–4.[5] Tourism is a potentially large foreign exchange earner and a source of economic growth.[5] Tourism generated more than 6% of Syria's gross domestic product in 2000, and more reforms were discussed to increase tourism revenues.[5] As a result of projects derived from Investment Law No. 10 of 1991, hotel bed numbers had increased 51% by 1999 and increased further in 2001.[6] A plan was announced in 2002 to develop ecological tourism with visits to desert and nature preserves.[7] Two luxury hotels opened in Damascus at the end of 2004.[7]
Tourism had been increasing considerably before the Civil War, that began in March 2011. According to the Syrian Ministry of Tourism in January 2011, about 6 million foreign tourists visited Syria in 2009, increasing to 8.5 million in 2010, a 40% increase. Tourism revenue was 30.8 billion Syrian pound (SYP) (US$8.4 billion) in 2010, 14% of the country's economy.[8] Tourism industry revenue in 2010 was US$6.5 billion, accounting for 12% of the gross domestic product and 11% of employment.[9]
After 2011
Since the start of the Syrian Civil War, in March 2011, tourism has declined steeply. According to official reports, hotel rooms designed for foreign tourists have been occupied by refugees. In the first quarter of 2012, tourism revenue was about 12.8 billion Syrian pounds ($178 million), compared with 52 billion Syrian pounds ($1 billion) in the first quarter of 2011, and the number of foreign tourists decreased by more than 76% in the 2012 quarter. Employment in the tourism industry was down by "nearly two-thirds" in that period.[9] According to UNESCO, five of Syria's six World Heritage Sites have been affected by the civil war.[9][10] In 2012, Syria sent a letter to the United Nations describing the decline of its tourism industry, noting that the country's hotel-occupancy rate had fallen from 90% the previous year to 15%.[11]
As of 2013, overall Syrian tourism revenue had declined by 94%, with Aleppo the worst affected, and the Tourism Minister stated, at the end of September 2013, that 289 tourist destinations had been damaged since 2011.[12]
By 2015, the number of tourists had declined by more than 98%. The Ministry of Tourism claimed that 45,000 tourists visited the country in the first half of 2015, but these figures were disputed by observers, according to the Syrian Economic Forum, which stated that Iranian religious tourism was all that remained.[13] According to a 2015 article in The Telegraph, hotels by beaches in the Mediterranean coast in Tartus and Latakia still received internal tourists and one hotel was "full" in the summer of 2014 and 2015.[14]
Interior to the Citadel of Aleppo
Reconstruction
As the Syrian Arab Army recaptured territory in the southern and western parts of the country, these areas came back under central Syrian government control. Major tourist sites damaged and made inaccessible due to the conflict began to be reconstructed and restored. Teams at damaged UNESCO World Heritage sites such as the Old City of Aleppo, the ruins of Palmyra and Krak des Chevaliers have begun restoration and reconstruction following years of conflict and devastation.[15][16]
Promotion
Promotion of tourism in Syria is handled by the Syrian Ministry of Tourism, which also maintains an active Facebook page[17] as well as the official Syria tourism website.[18] In September 2016, Syria's Ministry of Tourism drew criticism from some quarters for releasing a video, "Syria Always Beatiful [sic]," encouraging tourists to visit its beaches. The video spotlighted regions such as Tartus, which remain somewhat peaceful, though Tartus saw an attack resulting in the deaths of over 150 in May 2016.[19]
Attractions
Facade of the Great Mosque of Damascus
UNESCO sites
There are the six UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country. Twelve other sites submitted to UNESCO are on the organisation's tentative list: Norias of Hama, Ugrarit (Tell Shamra), Ebla (Tell Mardikh), Apamée (Afamia), Qasr al-Hayr al-Sharqi, Maaloula, Tartus, Arwad and two sites in the Euphrates valley: Mari (Tell Hariri) and Dura-Europos.[20]
The Mushabbak Basilica in Aleppo
See also: List of heritage sites damaged during the Syrian Civil War
Ancient City of Aleppo: The Ancient City of Aleppo is the historic city centre of Aleppo, Syria. The Old City of Aleppo, which is composed of the ancient city within the walls and the old cell-like quarters outside the walls approximately holds an area of 350 hectares (860 acres; 3.5 km2), housing about 120,000 residents.[21] Famous for its large mansions, narrow alleys, covered souqs and ancient caravanserais, the Ancient City of Aleppo became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986.[22]
The Krak des Chevaliers
War tourism
See also: War tourism and Dark tourism
The Syrian conflict is reportedly attracting adventure-seekers.[23] According to retired Israel Defense Forces colonel Kobi Marom, who leads tours of the war zone across the Israeli border, tourists are interested in seeing the conflict and go "crazy" when they learn that they are probably being observed by Al-Qaeda militants.[24]
Gallery
References
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Syria.
  1. ^ Syria. "Syria three years on: what for the future of tourism?". Telegraph. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
  2. ^ "Travel and Tourism in Syria". Euromonitor.com. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
  3. ^ "Syria: flights to Damascus cancelled | euronews, world news". Euronews.com. 29 November 2012. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
  4. ^ "Turkish Airlines suspended all flights over Syria". Nationalturk.com. Archived from the original on 29 November 2015. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d e The World Factbook. Cia.gov.
  6. ^ Syria country profile, pp. 11-12.
  7. ^ a b Syria country profile, p. 12.
  8. ^ "Syria sees tourist numbers leap 40% | The National". Thenational.ae. 25 January 2011. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
  9. ^ a b c "Conflict decimates Syria tourism: official report". Al Arabia News. 29 August 2012. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 24 December 2015.
  10. ^ "Syrian Tourism Industry: From Boom to Bust – Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East". Al-Monitor. 24 January 2012. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
  11. ^ Reuters Editorial (17 May 2012). "Syria complains to U.N. about tourism downturn amid conflict". Reuters. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
  12. ^ "Minister: Syria war costs tourism industry $1.5 billion". Al Arabia News. 30 September 2013. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 24 December 2015.
  13. ^ "Tehran extends a lifeline to Damascus through religious tourism". Syrian Economic Forum. Archived from the original on 20 September 2016. Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  14. ^ "It's 'happy holidays in Syria' according to the Assad regime". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 15 July 2016. Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  15. ^ Cascone, Sarah (August 27, 2018). "Nearly Destroyed by ISIS, the Ancient City of Palmyra Will Reopen in 2019 After Extensive Renovations". Artnet. Archived from the original on March 6, 2019. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  16. ^ "Digital archive on show in Berlin hopes to help rebuild Syria". Hurriyet. March 2, 2019. Archived from the original on March 4, 2019. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  17. ^ "Syria Tourism on Facebook". Archived from the original on 2017-12-15. Retrieved 2020-01-02.
  18. ^ "Syria Ministry of Tourism official website". Archived from the original on 2019-11-16. Retrieved 2020-01-02.
  19. ^ Domonoske, Camila (September 5, 2016). "Syria Tourism Ministry: Come For Sunny Beaches, Don't Mind The Civil War". NPR. Archived from the original on September 26, 2016. Retrieved September 25, 2016.
  20. ^ UNESCO World Heritage Centre. "Syrian Arab Republic – UNESCO World Heritage Centre". Whc.unesco.org. Archived from the original on 14 March 2018. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
  21. ^ bleeker. "Alepposeife: Aleppo history". Historische-aleppo-seife.de. Archived from the original on 2018-03-26. Retrieved 2013-06-10.
  22. ^ "eAleppo:Aleppo city major plans throughout the history" (in Arabic). Archived from the original on 2012-11-01. Retrieved 2020-01-02.
  23. ^ Ben Taub. "War Tourists Flock to Syria's Front Lines". The Daily Beast. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
  24. ^ "The Rise of Dark Tourism". The Atlantic. 15 July 2014. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
Last edited on 13 March 2021, at 13:08
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