British citizens are being advised to leave Syria by the Foreign Office due to increasingly violent disturbances across the country.
According to reports, there is live gunfire and at least 100 people have died in the last 2 days amidst protests against President Bahar Al-Assad, who took rule after the death of his father in 2000. Demonstrations have been taking place since Friday March 18th with nearly 300 deaths reported.
The Foreign Office has released a statement saying in light of the deteriorating security situation, British nationals in Syria who have no pressing need to remain should leave by commercial means.
William Hague, Foreign Secretary expressed concerns during an interview with Andrew Marr that Britons might not be able to get out of Syria “at all” if the situation does not change.
In recent moths, the Syrian government launched an ambitious marketing exercise in the hopes that it could further boost foreign visitors to this unusual destination. Syria has become an increasingly popular destination, boasting vast deserts, rugged mountains, 180 km of Mediterranean coastline and five thousand years of history and culture. Tourism was helping bring this country in from the cold.
The Government had hoped to double visitor numbers to 12m by 2014, buoyed by the growth of European tourists by 24% to 270,000 in 2009 and the recent interest from the American market, with a recent visit from Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt putting the destination in the limelight - for more positive reasons.
Syria is the latest destination in the Middle East to find itself at the forefront of demonstrations and protests against its current ruler. The political unrest which has spread from Tunisia and Egypt through to Libya and a number of other countries has significantly impacted the short term outlook for the industry.
The organisers of AHIC 2011 have dedicated a number of the panels of this year’s conference programme from April 3th - 2nd May, to address the impact of these issues on the travel industry.