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Syria Generated $8.3 Billion in Revenue From Tourism Last Year

Jan. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Syria generated $8.3 billion in tourism revenue last year as the number of visitors increased 40 percent, Tourism Minister Saadallah Agha al- Qalaa said.

Tourism revenue climbed 60 percent in the Arab country, benefiting from cultural and archaeological attractions, he said in a news conference at the Tourism Ministry today. Syria attracted 8.5 million holiday makers, up from 6.09 million the previous year, he said.

Syria is encouraging private industry and foreign investment in its state-dominated economy to provide long-term financing for development and economic reforms amid dwindling oil revenue. The government wants to attract as much as $55 billion in foreign direct investment over the next five years, Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Abdallah Dardari said Sept. 24.

Some 287 new touristic projects, including 57 hotels and 230 restaurants, worth a total of $401 million opened last year, Agha al-Qalaa said. Another 85 hotels will open this year, he said. Foreign direct investments in Syria reached $2.5 billion in 2010, exceeding expectations, Dardari said Jan. 12.

The country received 4.6 million Arabs, 1.5 million Syrians living abroad and another 2.3 million people from other countries, he said. Tourism investments increased 9 percent in 2010, Agha al-Qalaa said.

Syria’s economy will grow at an average of 5.5 percent to 6 percent over the next five years, according to Dardari. The International Monetary Fund has urged Syria to accelerate its transition to a more open, market-based economy and reduce its dependence on oil.

To contact the reporters on this story: Lina Ibrahim in Dubai at librahim4@bloomberg.net., or Nayla Razzouk in Amman at Nrazzouk2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Maher Chmaytelli at mchmaytelli@bloomberg.net.

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