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Head of the Federation of Syrian Chambers of Tourism talks about the tourism sector in Syria

Mr. Mohammad Khadour, Head of the Federation of Syrian Chambers of Tourism and the Regional Director of Asafir Hotels speaks to Syria Times on the Federation’s activities and the tourism sector in Syria in general and Homs in particular.

Following is the full text of the interview conducted with Mr. Khadour in the Asafir Hotel in Homs city.

Can you tell our readers about your profile?

I am Mohammad Khadour, the Head of the Federation of Syrian Chambers of Tourism and the Regional Director of Safir Hotels. I started my work in the tourism industry in February 1977 at Le Meridien Hotel in Damascus (Currently its name Dama Rose Damascus) when I was a student at the Damascus University’s Faculty of Geography. I was studying and working at the same time. I graduated in 1981 and kept working at Le Meridien in different positions and sections. Then, I became a manager of section in it.

In August 1982, I moved to be the Director of Safir Hotel in Homs.

In 2008, I became the Regional Director of Safir Hotels, including Safir Homs, SafirMaalula, and Safir Zainab. I became a representative for the Safir Company’s investments.

In June 2016, I was elected to be the Head of the Federation of Syrian Chambers of Tourism.

What is your plan to activate the Federation of Syrian Chambers of Tourism? 

I believe in public works and helping society and hope to activate and improve the Federation’s eight chambers in Syria. There are eight chambers:

1-Damascus Chamber
2- Damascus Rural Chamber
3- Lattakia Chamber
4- Tartous Chamber
5- the Eastern Chamber: Raqqa, Deir Ezzour and Hassaka
6-the Northern Chambe: Aleppo and Idlib
7- the Middle Chamber: Homs and Hama
8- the Southern Chamber: Daraa, Sweida and Queintra

I am proud of what happened in Aleppo. The owners of tourist projects in Aleppo have done a great job and have exerted efforts to rebuild their investments, hotels and restaurants.

I and other members of Federation’s Board of Council work hard to improve tourism industry in Syria and help the owners of tourist projects and hotels overcome the results of ongoing sanctions, unfair war against Syria and the embargo of flights to and from Syria.

I am very concern to help and support all Syrian tourism facilities’ owners to rebuild their demolished facilities. The Minister of Tourism Eng. Mohammad Rami Radwan Martini urged to support and help the owners of tourism facilities and enterprises to get loans from the government banks to rebuild their hotels, restaurants and establishments. The Federation and Ministry are ready to help them and I personally met with the owners of tourism facilities and enterprises to discuss how to solve their problems.

How has the terror war against Syria affected tourism industry?

The terrorist groups attacked directly the tourist and archeological sites under different fake pretexts. They were calling these places as ‘debauchery places’ to justify their attacks and threats. They were sending direct threats and warns to the owners of tourism facilities.

The terrorist groups attacked five times Safir Homs Hotel. We changed the Hotel’s glasses and windows five times because of mortars attacks and explosions. One employee of the Hotel was martyred, and other two were employees plus security man were kidnapped. I personally was shot directly two times and God saved me.

How do the Federation’s activities being held abroad represent the Syrian tourism industry?

In cooperation with the Ministry of Tourism, the Federation’s head and members participated in different international tourism activities in Spain, Italy and the UAE. Recently, we participated in the ‘Arab Travel Market’ Exhibition in Dubai, United Arab Emirates held in April 2019.
These activities, conferences and exhibitions are opportunities for Syrian participants to invite and encourage businessmen, investors and economic actors to visit Syria and participate in the tourism industry and sector in Syria.

We, the Syrian delegation, could break the embargo being imposed on the Syrian tourism sector.

I visited Italy on November 15-18 ,2018 to participate in the Mediterranean Forum on Archeological cities Tourism, which was held in the Italian city of Pastum. I felt that Italians were very interested in the Syrian cultural tourism and sympathized with the Syrian delegation.

I visited Russia in November 2018 and met with Russian officials in the field of tourism to discuss the means of encouraging the Russian tourists to Syria. I made a presentation and gave the Russians ideas about the archeological, culture and religious tourist sites in Ma’arrat Saydnaya, Ma’alula and others. Russians consider Syria as a holy land and they like to visit the Orthodox old churches and sites.

What is your role as the Head of the Social Communication Committee in Homs Province?

We are about 33 social figures, religious figures, tribal leaders and chiefs represent all social fabric and sects of Homs city and province.

We started talking and meeting with social activities and figures in Homs’ districts when the events erupted in Homs in early 2011.

We met with armed groups to reach national reconciliations and settlements in different parts of Homs province.

I personally met with leaders of armed groups and could convince them to reach settlements in cooperation with the Syrian government.

Now, our Committee’s members are discussing with the Rukban Camp’s refugees how to ease their return to their hometowns safely.

I understand that many of Syrian citizens were misled and made a mistake and we should help them to return to the right path.

The people of Homs could successfully overcome- with their wisdom- the crisis in Homs city and avoid the city a civil war.

Interviewed by:
Obaida Mohammad
Inas Abdul Kareem