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Syria promotes 'beautiful' beach holidays as bloody war rages

Before the war broke out tourism accounted for 14 percent of the Syrian GDP [YouTube]

Date of publication: 1 September, 2016

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Video: As Syria is being torn apart by a bloody war, the government has launched a campaign dubbed 'Syria Always Beautiful' to get tourists to see past the devastating conflict.

Syria's board of tourism has attempted the near-impossible: to attract holidaymakers to a country that has been torn apart by an ongoing bloody civil war that has raged for five years with no signs of an end in sight.

The ministry of tourism kicked off their latest campaign on Tuesday by releasing a video on YouTube of panoramic aerial views of the regime-held coastal resort city of Tartus set to a bumping dance track most likely aimed at Russian tourists.

The two-minute video titled "Syria Always Beautiful" shows swimmers and jet-skiers soaking up the sun on Syria's Mediterranean coast just miles away from the city of Homs, parts of which have been completely laid to waste by years of regime shelling and air raids.

The city of Tartus - which the regime has tried to project as a safe holiday spot - is home to a naval facility run by the Russian military and is south of Latakia's 'Hmeimim airbase where short-range warplanes launch sorties to bombard rebels.

In May, more than 170 people, mostly civilians, were killed by seven near-simultaneous bombings in Tartus and neighbouring Jableh. The Islamic State group [IS] claimed responsibility for the attack.

The UK government has advised against travel to the whole of Syria and warned that any Britons still in the country should leave immediately.

"The situation remains extremely volatile and dangerous. There is widespread fighting throughout Syria, including in Damascus and its suburbs," the foreign office said.

It added that very high threat of being kidnapped throughout the country.

Despite the devastating war, the regime's tourism board has continued to try to lure visitors to areas deemed safe.

The ministry's website recommends tourists visit a range of locations including Palmyra, a few miles from the frontline with IS, and Old Aleppo, which has been the scene of the heaviest fighting this summer and is roughly divided between rebel and regime forces.

Before the war broke out tourism accounted for 14 percent of the Syrian GDP with eight million visiting annually. However, the break out of war has seen those numbers decline sharply.

Writer on Middle East politics and security issues, James Delslow, thinks the industry will return once the conflict ends.

"Before the darkness of conflict enveloped the country, its tourism industry was going from strength to strength. It offered traditional hospitality, ancient ruins, vast crusader castles and boutique hotels in the heart of Damascus - supposedly the oldest continually inhabited city on the planet," Delslow wrote in the The New Arab.

"The tourism industry Cambodia and Rwanda bounced back after witnessing terrible tragedy, and Syria's will do too once peace returns."

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