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Much potential in the Syrian tourism industry

Although relatively underdeveloped, tourism is already Syria's second-biggest foreign exchange earner. With infrastructural and personnel development it could be even more lucrative.

Palmyra: there are thousands of ancient monuments
and sites in Syria which boasts the oldest continually-
inhabited cities on earth

In spite of its plentiful natural resources, Syria is keenly aware of the need to develop new industries to counter long-term unemployment. Perhaps the most obvious example of this commitment is tourism, which, after oil, is already the second largest generator of foreign currency, accounting for inflows of about $1.5 billion in 1999, some 4% of GDP. Under a 20-year plan drawn up by the Ministry of Tourism, Syria aims to attract 7 million tourists a year, compared with the current 2.5 million, chiefly arrivals from the neighbouring states of Jordan and Lebanon, as well as from the Gulf.

European visitor numbers also starting to increase, and attests to the potential of tourism. The cities of Aleppo and Damascus both lay claim to being the oldest continually inhabited urban districts in the world, although historians seem to give this accolade to Aleppo (the capital of northern Syria), which was established as the capital of the Amorite kingdom of Yamkhad around 1780BC.

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