Syria has reopened its war-ravaged nation for tourism amid lively terror threats and a damaged economic system hammered by years of brutal battle and COVID-19.
The Syrian authorities began authorizing vacationer visas once more earlier this month after abruptly stopping them when COVID-19 hit in March final yr, a journey firm operator instructed the Post Tuesday.
As a outcome, a lot of international tour companies have began promoting journeys to Syria for later this yr and into early 2022 – and not less than two have mentioned their first excursions have already booked up.
“Within a week the first group trip for Spring 2022 sold out and we have added extra dates. We also have sold three private trips for small groups or individuals in the same week,” James Willcox, the founding father of the UK- primarily based Untamed Borders, instructed the Post.
Another journey firm, Rocky Road Travel primarily based in Germany, has already absolutely booked a week-long tour in March, in accordance to its web site.
The US State Department’s highest level alert warning Americans not to journey to Syria stays in place due to the continuing threats of terrorism, civil unrest and armed battle throughout the nation.
The advisory warns additionally that Americans and different westerners are at a very excessive danger of being kidnapped whereas in Syria.
It wasn’t instantly clear if any Americans had registered for the upcoming journeys.
The Syrian Tourism Ministry at the moment solely grants vacationer visas through tour corporations, and the federal government closely vets them to ensure no journalists or activists try to get into the nation.
Willcox mentioned visa authorization for Americans typically takes longer than UK or EU residents. US residents are additionally extra probably to be refused entry into Syria, he added.
The re-emergence of tourism comes amid the nonetheless unresolved decade-long civil battle in Syria that arose from an rebellion in opposition to President Bashar Assad in 2011.
The battle has left tons of of hundreds lifeless, pressured tens of millions to flee Syria and search refused in close by international locations and resulted in rising sanctions from the US and different western nations.
While the battle continues to be unresolved, Assad is at the moment again answerable for a lot of Syria due, partly, to assist from Iran and Russia.
Syria’s northwest continues to be run by jihadists who had been beforehand related to Al Qaeda, whereas the east and northeast are managed by Kurdish forces backed by the US.
While the West nonetheless shuns Assad, some Arab allies of the US – together with Jordan, the UAE and Egypt — at the moment are reviving financial and diplomatic ties with Syria.
King Abdullah of Jordan spoke to Assad for the primary time in a decade this month, and the border between the 2 counties reopened absolutely for commerce in September.
But there was no change in coverage towards Syria underneath the Biden administration, which just lately carried out a drone strike within the nation as just lately as final month that focused a senior al-Qaeda chief.
“What we have not done and will not do is express any support for efforts to normalize or rehabilitate the brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad, lift a single sanction on Syria, or change our position to oppose the reconstruction of Syria until there is irreversible progress towards a political solution,” a US State Department spokesperson mentioned.
Willcox mentioned his journey firm consistently assess the dangers related to Syria and have plans in place to decrease threats, together with avoiding journey to authorities areas or locations the place high-profile individuals collect.
In the occasion the Assad authorities takes a dislike to their excursions, Willcox mentioned “we reduce the risk by following their protocols, we vet other guests to ensure there are no journalists or activists in our groups, we also ensure our guests are fully briefed about what they can and cannot do in Syria.”