According to a report published by the Cultural Heritage Agency of IRI, and following the negotiations between Adnan Mahmoud, the Syrian ambassador to Tehran, with Saeed Owhadi, the head of the Religious Pilgrimage Organization of Iran, an agreement has been signed in which the travel of Iranian pilgrims to the religious sites of Syria would be resumed. The report reflects the hope of the Syrian government for the continuation of tourist activities and visits from other countries such as Russia, China and South Africa.
Nevertheless, the decision comes at a time when many tourist organizations point to the war, destruction, and unsafe conditions in Syria due to the activities of Islamic fundamentalist groups, causing the diversion of tourists to more stable counties of the region. Just recently, American and European governments have advised their tourist citizens to avoid Syria as the most dangerous place on earth.
According to ‘travel experts,’ certain destinations, however, may even be benefiting from lessened travel to traditional summer destinations. Holiday bookings to Thailand have increased 27%, Barbados bookings have increased 24%, Canada by 45%, Indonesia by 63% and Sri Lanka by 101%. Additionally, Turkey has fallen from fourth to eighth on the list of the UK holiday industry’s most booked destinations this summer, and Egypt has fallen from 11th to 35th place. Also in the UK, The Mirror has reported that last minute bookings to Turkey have fallen by 57% and those in Egypt have fallen 85%, and many UK families are choosing “safe haven” resorts in Spain, Portugal and Italy as alternatives.*