I haven’t seen a single tourist in Palmyra for almost six months now. Once in a while, Syrians travelling through the region rent some rooms. The rest of the time, the hotel is empty. I was forced to cut my five employees’ salaries in half.
However, this situation isn’t as alarming for those of us working in the tourism industry as you might think – nearly all of us have second jobs. Myself, I’m a veterinarian. We all took this precaution because tourism here is very unstable, just like the region is, and was so even before these current troubles. Most of the tourists who came here were European, and if conflict broke out in any country in the Middle East, they would cancel their plans to visit Syria. This was notably the case in 2006 during the war between Lebanon and Israel. So we learned to diversify our earnings.
I would like to tell tourists not to believe everything that foreign televisions broadcast, and to come to Palmyra. Of course, we’re in a crisis, but the situation isn’t as dramatic as people say. Here, in any case, it’s relatively calm. [Editor’s Note: videos show tanks roaming the city]. I hope that within a month or two, everything will get back to normal. To understand why I say this, one must remember what Syria was like before this crisis: a young girl could go out in the streets at three in the morning without running into any trouble! And nobody asked you for your identification card in the street. Here in Palmyra, we want that security back!