As war rages on in Syria with no end in sight, the country’s travel and tourism industry has been a major causality of the conflict. Often described as the world’s most brutal conflict of the century so far, the Syrian war has rendered almost all of the country highly dangerous and hazardous to all international visitors and it has also led to the biggest international refugee crisis in decades. Major tourist sites have been destroyed by shelling and the majority of source countries for inbound arrivals have imposed travel bans and called on their citizens to leave Syria immediately. The war has also caused unprecedented weakness in the Syrian economy, which has had a negative influence on outbound tourism as well.
All major international airlines have naturally suspended flights into and out of Syria following the eruption of violent clashes near or, in some cases, inside major airports in cities such as Damascus and Aleppo. The gravity of this situation means that all international airlines have deemed it too dangerous to serve Syria and with very low demand for flights, Syrian Air remains the sole airline serving Syrian airports regularly. The airline has survived almost solely thanks to expatriate Syrians travelling between Syria and their current countries of residence.
Syria’s hotels have been another major victim of the country’s ongoing conflict, with a substantial number of them having been destroyed by shelling and air strikes, notably in the city of Aleppo, which has been most severely affected by the war and has in fact been almost completely levelled by the violence. Many small travel accommodation outlets across the country are catering to displaced Syrians and offering rooms for rates as low as US$5 per night in order to provide assistance to the country’s less fortunate families. Meanwhile, wealthier Syrians who can afford to flee Aleppo have fled to Damascus, where some chained luxury hotels such as the Four Seasons and Sheraton continue to operate.
Meanwhile, almost half of total outbound departures and more than 75% of outgoing tourist receipts in Syria are generated by religious tourism, including Hajj and Umrah trips to Saudi Arabia’s sacred cities of Mecca and Medina. This has allowed Syria’s beleaguered travel retailers to survive during extremely difficult times. Religious tourism is known to be more resilient than other types of travel and tourism, especially during periods of economic difficulty and armed conflict.
Syria’s travel and tourism balance of payments clearly demonstrated significant losses towards the end of the review period and it is expected that Syria will take years to recover from the ravages of the ongoing civil war, if and when this war comes to a definitive end. Massive investment will be required in order to bring Syria’s travel and tourism industry back to life and so far reconstruction efforts have not progressed beyond the planning stage. However, before any meaningful recovery is achieved, the confidence of the Syrian people will have to be regained as well.
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Health and Wellness Tourism
Tourism Flows Domestic
Tourism Flows Inbound
Tourism Flows Outbound
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