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Syria looks to step up its Gulf presence

Syria<.> is to field a high-level delegation to Arabian Travel Market 2002, ATM<.>, the Middle East`s…

Syria<.> is to field a high-level delegation to Arabian Travel Market 2002, ATM<.>, the Middle East`s premier travel and tourism exhibition, which will be held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates in May as the country moves to build its profile throughout the Gulf.

To be led by the country`s Minister of Tourism, His Excellency Dr. Sa`adallah Agha Al Qala`a, the delegation will include the Deputy Tourism Minister, Mohannad Kalash and three departmental directors.

Syria`s high profile participation at Arabian Travel Market 2002, which will be held at the Airport Expo Dubai from May 7-10, comes as the country looks to further enhance its Inter-Arab tourism traffic.

Last year Syria received 2.2 million tourists from within the Arab world with arrivals from the GCC states showing the biggest increase on 2000 levels. GCC arrivals last year were up 17.4% to stand at 475,418.

We are looking to improve these figures and the Ministry is considering a long term plan to open dedicated tourism offices throughout the Middle East, said Sawsan Jouzy, Counsellor to the Minister on Promotions and Tourist Relations.

Currently our tourism efforts in the region are co-ordinated with diplomatic missions and Syrian Airlines.

We are also looking at organising Syrian tourism festivals and events in most Arab countries as well as participating in leading exhibitions, seminars and conferences.

Syria believes the Middle East will emerge as an important travel destination over the next decade. It will be at the core of attracting tourists seeking cultural and religious destinations, summer resorts, leisure, entertainment and shopping and its diverse offering will also attract the incentive market, said Jouzy.

Syria plans to stage folklore performances at its pavilion during Arabian Travel Market and run competitions and quizzes. Housed in the pavilion will be Cham Palaces and Hotels, Le Meridien – Syria, the Sheraton Damascus Hotel, as well as Syrian Airlines.

Most of the Middle Eastern nations have responded well to Arabian Travel Market 2002 with intra-regional travel being in strong show focus, said Matt Thompson, Group Exhibition Director, Overseas Events, Reed Travel Exhibitions (RTE<.>), which organises the show. The events of late last year, though negatively impacting the international tourism scene, seemed, if anything, to heighten regional appeal for intra-Arab travel.

Syria is just one of 53 international destinations contracted, to date, as exhibitors.

Destination marketing is perhaps the strongest segment in the show, though all travel and tourism sectors are represented – indeed new exhibitor categories, such as yacht chartering are entering the market, said Lindsey Kavanagh, RTE`s Marketing Manager, Overseas Events. New segments go some way to meeting visitor demand for additional product exposure. Arabian Travel Market 2002 is the ninth in the highly-successful annual series.

The geographic spread of participation has held up well with perhaps only the USA not meeting expectations, said Kavanagh.

Theodore Koumelis
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