'Always Beautiful': Syrian Tourism Minister Touts Country's 'Civilized Side'

© Wikipedia / Bernard Gagnon View of the Umayyad Mosque, Damascus, Syria
View of the Umayyad Mosque, Damascus, Syria - Sputnik International
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Although Syria's tourism sector was hard hit between 2012 and 2013, most tour operators in the country have already returned to work, with new tourist projects currently under development, Syrian Minister of Tourism Bishr Riyad Yazigi told Sputnik.

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In an interview with Sputnik, Syrian Tourism Minister Bishr Riyad Yazigi touted his country's thriving tourism sector, which he said was hard hit between 2012 and 2013 and which he admitted "depends very much on the level of security."

The interview came after the Syrian Ministry of Tourism released a promotional video entitled "Syria Always Beautiful" in a bid to lure potential visitors from around the world into traveling to the country.

© AP PhotoSyrian Muslims walk in the courtyard of the historic Umayyad Mosque before weekly prayers in Damascus, Syria. File photo
Syrian Muslims walk in the courtyard of the historic Umayyad Mosque before weekly prayers in Damascus, Syria. File photo  - Sputnik International
Syrian Muslims walk in the courtyard of the historic Umayyad Mosque before weekly prayers in Damascus, Syria. File photo

When the ad was posted on YouTube, it immediately provoked an uproar from the Arab and Western media. They accused the Syrian Ministry of Tourism of endangering tourists by inviting them to the war-torn country, which they alleged has no tourism industry as such.

Touching on this, Bishr Riyad Yazigi said that the Western media outlets, including the Austrian newspaper Der Standard, only paid attention to one of the dozens of ads that were produced by the Syrian Ministry of Tourism.

"And, of course, the comments on this video came amid the ongoing information terrorism against Syria and its people," according to Yazigi.

"This video clip, like dozens of others shot earlier this year, aims to show the world the civilized side of our country in term of its geography and nature. We did not seek to prompt foreign tourists to spend their holidays in Syria, even though the country's level of prices is lower than in a number of countries in the region," he said.

Yazigi also underscored the importance of the fact that the Syrian Ministry of Tourism's ads "are dedicated to the beauty of the country, which the world conspired against to destroy it."

"In such ads, we show the courage of the Syrian people and their fearlessness in the face of the terrorist threat," he said.

He recalled that in the past eight months the number of tourists, including those from foreign countries, has increased by 30 percent since the same period in 2015. 

Commenting on Syria's places of interest apart from Damascus, Yazigi mentioned the country's mountainous regions and areas in the western parts of Homs province, such as Marmarita and Wadi al-Nasara.

"Many foreign tourists visit Syria through a travel agency, and first and foremost we must ensure the safety of the tourists. Now Syria opens its doors to each and every tourist, most of whom had already visited Syria and got acquainted with its sightseeing attractions," he said.

He also singled out domestic tourism, which never stopped in Syria and which he said will continue to thrive in the future.

A state flag of the Syrian Arab Republic by an Orthodox church in an old Christian block of Aleppo, Syria - Sputnik International
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Yazigi also said more than 700 tourism organizations in Syria resumed work between 2014 and 2015 as the country's Ministry of Tourism develops new projects in the sector, including programs related to supporting and encouraging those who want to invest in Syrian tourism.

"This will help to resume suspended projects, as well as resuscitate the part of the private tourism sector which was hit by the war and the lack of funding," he concluded.

Der Standard has, meanwhile, recognized that that the advert, which was shot near the Syrian port of Tartus, which remains controlled by government troops, is not a fake.

"Tartus continues to attract tourists, albeit mostly from Syria itself," the newspaper said. 

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