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Turkey and Syria Cooperation on Tourism to generate Massive Growth in Syrian Tourism

Posted on 05 November 2009

Turkey’s tourism growth has been among the most impressive in the world over the last few years. In fact it has been so impressive that Syria’s tourist board has sought the help of their Turkish counterparts in marketing Syria to the world’s tourists.

Before 2000 Syria and Turkey did not have very good relations, but this has gradually changed since. In August this year, the tourism ministers from both countries met in Lataka to discuss their cooperation with regards tourism.

The biggest step in this cooperation was the recent lifting of visa restrictions on travel between the two countries. If the legislation can be fully implemented, tourists to Turkey can visit Syria as well, without the need of getting a separate visa. And of course, the opposite is true of tourists to Syria who want to visit Turkey.

Turkish Association of Travel Agents (TÜRSAB) Vice President Çetin Gücün noted that they are trying to complete the cooperation project in time for the 2010 tourism season, he said:

"Syria proposed that the two countries should be jointly promoted and marketed in the field of tourism. They suggested that joint destinations should identified. After the tourism ministers of the two countries shook hands, TÜRSAB’s research and development department started to work on it. These two countries will be promoted together in the Far East, North and South America and Africa. We are still working on this.

"Combined tour programs are being prepared for the two countries. For tourists coming from remote destinations, visiting a single country is not enough. They are eager to visit more than one country. There are successful implementations of this policy. If we manage to put in place a similar cooperation with Syria, the two countries’ market share in tourism will increase exponentially. I believe this project will be very successful."

The visa restrictions alone have had a massive impact on tourism to Syria, from Turkey and from around the world. In 2008 Syria received under 500,000 Turkish tourists, and a further 324,000 turks visited Syria in the first half of this year; before the visa restriction was lifted. Since the need for a visa was removed the number has risen to 100,000 visitors per month.

In 2010 it is estimated that Syria will receive 1 million Turkish tourists, compared to 20,000 in 1990. Further figures from the tourism ministers revealed a 20% increase in Syrian visits to Turkey in 2008, which is expected to rise to a growth of 50% this year.

If the full cooperation can be implemented, visitors will be allowed to visit Syria through Turkey from third countries, using the airports at Adana and Hatay. Because of this cooperation Syria is expected to attract 6 million tourists in 2010, compared to 1.2million in the entire period of strained relations with Turkey.

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