Healthy occupancy levels in Syrian hotels

Covered bazaar, Damascus

The total number of people visiting Syria exceeded 6 million in 2007 according to figures from the Ministry of Tourism. Of these, 1.4 million were one day visitors from neighbouring countries.
The number of tourists involved in group travel also achieved quick recovery in 2007 due to Syria’s recovery after the Israeli aggression on Lebanon. After the number of tourist nights by tourist groups decreased from 580,523 nights in 2005 to 372,221 nights in 2006, it increased to 592,140 nights in 2007.
Syrian hotels experienced generally high levels of occupancy during 2007 when 66.7 per cent was recorded. The highest result was in Damascus 78 per cent (96 per cent during July, the Arab season), followed by 76 per cent for Aleppo (87 per cent during April, the European season). The lowest rate of occupied hotels was 48 per cent in Idleb (68 per cent during March, the European season).
There were no percentages for Sweida and Quneitra due to their low hotel capacity. However, a number of hotels are under construction in these areas, some of which will be put into service during 2008 according to the ministry.
The most popular hotels in terms of classification were two to three star hotels, which recorded 42.6 per cent occupancy for 2007. Four to five star hotels had 32.8 per cent of hotel nights in Syria, while local and public hotels had 24.5 per cent.
The number of hotel nights spent by Arabs, expatriates, foreigners and Syrians were recorded based on the classification of the hotel. The number of Arabs and expatriates staying in international five star hotels was 1,166 million, 1.0 million for four star hotels, 0.9 million for three star and 1.9 million for two star hotels.
The majority of foreigners - one million - stayed in two star rated hotels, with half a million each staying in four and five star establishments.
Resident Syrians spent the least number of nights in a hotel - 0.2 million each stayed in four and five star hotels, and 0.1 million stayed in two and three star establishments.
The total bed nights for five star hotels was1.9 million; 1.7 million for four star hotels; 1,6 million for three star hotels and 3.2 million stayed in two star hotels.
The number of hotel nights during 2007 increased to exceed the limit of 10 million nights due to Arab and foreign tourists staying in furnished apartments. The total of tourist nights, with all of their different forms of accommodation, has exceeded 50 million nights (excluding tourist nights for immigrants). The big difference between hotel nights and tourist nights in furnished apartments comes from the arrival of Arab tourists especially those from Gulf countries, who desire to stay in furnished apartments. This can be attributed to the unavailability of furnished apartments within hotels for the time being, although some has become available lately and has led to hotel apartments being included in the different projects presented to tourist investment markets.
New hotels of international level have appeared during the last two years, such as the Damascus Four Seasons, Aleppo Sheraton, Seidnaya Sheraton, Palmyra Semiramis and the historical Bloudan Hotel and Alnakheel village, in addition to a big number of other tourism establishments.
The Ministry of Tourism also launched major projects for tourism development in order to establish, when they are completed, Syria in a better position on the international tourism arena.
The Ministry is putting forth, this year, a new group of major areas of tourism development on the Syrian seashore, in addition to its launching of a group of integrated tourism development areas in promising areas.
Revenues of international tourism have exceeded $2.890 billion. The average of Arab and foreign tourists’ stay reached 11.1 nights and increased to 14.2 when adding Syrian immigrants’ nights.
The focus of tourist activities in Syria shifted in 2006 and 2007. For a long time recreation and holiday tourism dominated tourist interests, in addition to cultural and religious tourism. Since then new forms of
tourism have emerged, the most obvious among them is conference tourism with a big rise (nine per cent of total tourist activity in Syria). Such a fact reflects the development of hotel structure on one hand and the rising economical activity in Syria on the other hand. The emergence of health tourism with a percentage of 5 per cent has also been recorded.
One of the ministry’s priorities for 2008 was to establish the Syrian Tourist Company to handle Syria’s group tourism. This company was to be responsible for presenting programmes for internal tourism and will be encouraging tourist demand and investment in developing areas and in protecting tourism sector from the effects of the regional situation on in coming tourist.