DAMASCUS, Syria – With participation from official tourism boards such as Greece, Thailand, Jordan, Turkey, India, Malaysia, and Syria together with airlines, hotels, tour operators, restaurants, and travel and tourism services companies, the Arab Tourism Borsa in its 6th edition was concluded with a new record for visitors that exceeded 1,200 trade professionals and over 6,000 from the general public.
This year ATB was special and much better than last year as the Minister of Syria Tourism Dr. Sadaala Agha Al Qalaa opened the fair together with an official team. The minister spent around three hours at the event and paid visits to all the stands, in particular the foreign participants, whom he warmly welcomed.
Syria is one of the best travel and tourism destinations in the Middle East with the most attractions. The only thing that ATB is missing are hosted buyer and hosted media programs. The organizer of the event, Mr. Emad Sarayri, said that hotels in Damascus are not offering rooms, and they are not supporting the event, simply because its known that Syria still has a shortage of 5-star hotel rooms, although a few 5-star hotels are under construction.
Dr. Sadallah visited the eTurboNews stand where Motaz Mothman, eTN Middle East representative, confirmed to him that our publication is interested in writing about Syria and being partners with Syria Tourism.
The organizers held a dinner on the second day in Al Raya restaurant, where popular Syrian food was served accompanied with Arabic Music and singers specializing in the “tabla,” a popular Indian percussion instrument, and the “oud,” a stringed instrument commonly used in Middle Eastern music. Dinner also included a Malaysian folklore team who played and sang traditional Malawi songs. The Ambassador of China attended the dinner and give a 5-minute speech to the attendees, during which he confirmed China’s participation next year.
The next day, the organizers invited the exhibitors to lunch at Al Khawali restaurant, located in the old city of Damascus. The old city is a big tourism attraction where most of the old houses have been turned into restaurants and showrooms for handmade Syrian furniture and mosaics.
A Jordanian delegate arrived on the 3rd day of the event and held meetings one-on-one with major Syrian tour operators, confirming that tourism and travel between Jordan and Syria is at its best time since taxes will be removed for travelers from Jordan and Syria in order to increase traffic and business between the two friendly neighboring countries.
The minister informed the organizers to participate in a partnership with an international event organizer so as to attract more exhibitors and to organize a hosted buyer and media program as well.
Ms. Fotini Nakou, Greece representative, said they were happy to participate in Syria, as Greece is the closest European country to them and because of the similarities in food and culture. Mr. Gangadhar, assistant director for India for the Middle East, said they always exhibit at ATB as they believe that Syria and the Arab world is attractive for them. Mr. Zaid Malhas, representing Thailand, said they were at the event to invite Syria travelers to enjoy their honeymoon programs, as well as their spas and the wonderful nature in Thailand. Mr. Maher Al Qaryouti, head of the Arab countries division on the Jordan Tourism Board, mentioned that as the relationship between the two countries is going better, they will, as a tourism board, support the future development of this ongoing relationship. Kuwait is a regular exhibitor at ATB, because thousands of Syrians work in Kuwait and tens of thousands of Kuwait tourists arrive in Syria every year.