Russian Tour Operators Begin Selling Tourist Trips to War-Torn Syria

Eight years after the onset of the bloody war in Syria, the flow of tourists into the Middle East country is beginning to recover, two Russian tour operators told Kommersant

The companies have launched the sale of organized tours to Syria but one of them said it has so far managed to take only 50 Russian tourists there on trips costing between $1,500 and $1,950, the business newspaper writes. The tour operators, and Mirakl, believe the potential of Syrian tours can expand to tens of thousands of Russian travelers.

The organized 8-day trips to seven Syrian cities start from the Lebanese capital of Beirut, with stops in Damascus, Aleppo, Palmyra, and other cities. Russians can obtain visas at the border for a $35 fee.

“There are three or four Syrian companies that receive special permits from the relevant authorities” to allow Russians into Syria, Middle East expert Grigory Leontiyev was quoted as saying.

“Solo tourists are turned away while trying to enter the country,” Leontiyev added.

A Russian Foreign Ministry travel advisory urges citizens to avoid visiting Syria due to the threat of terrorist attacks.

The tour operators note that Russian travelers are avoiding the northwestern province of Idlib, Syria’s last rebel stronghold.

Leontiyev estimates Syria’s tourism potential at tens of thousands of people, with most of the interest coming from avid tourists and bloggers. Ordinary tourists are expected to consider traveling to the conflict-torn country in two to three years, Kommersant cited him as saying.

Three times more Russian nationals, 334 people, have visited Syria so far in 2019 than in 2018, FSB border agents were cited as saying.