Syria courts vacationers amid bloody civil war

Vacation in Syria? Seriously?

The war-torn nation's Ministry of Tourism released a promotional tourism video featuring Tartus, one of its pristine coastal towns, in hopes of attracting tourists. Missing from the pitch was the fact that a suicide bomber killed dozens on that same beach earlier this summer, and residents of Homs, just 60 miles away, are running from government-sacntioned bombings.

The one-minute, 43-second video-- presumably filmed by an unarmed drone-- is titled “Syria--Always Beautiful.” With festive music and sunseeker on jet skis and frolicking on beaches, the idyllic footage is akin to advertisements Americans might see luring them to a place like Myrtle Beach, S.C. 

The video is one of a dozen videos uploaded by the ministry with no mention of the country’s bloody conflict that has killed at least 400,000. 

The Washington Post reported that there is good reason that Damascus would like to see an increase in tourists: In 2011, just before civil war broke out, Syria's revenue from tourism amounted to $8.3 billion, or 13.5 percent of the country’s GDP.

But despite the PR-push, it is up against a sobering reality.

Last year, the U.S. State Department warned Americans to not only avoid visiting Syria, but to pass on commercial flights that fly over the country. Many airlines, including Arab League carriers, have suspended their flights to the country.

“The potential for hostile acts exists throughout the country, including kidnappings and the use of chemical warfare against civilians. Shelling and aerial bombardment, including of densely populated urban areas, have significantly raised the risk of death or serious injury. The destruction of infrastructure, housing, medical facilities, schools, and power and water utilities has also increased hardships inside the country,” the State Department warning reads on department of state’s website read.

Lonely Planet’s website doesn’t put it much gentler.

“At the time of writing, Syria is one of the most dangerous places on the planet. To put it simply, you can’t go. And if you can, you shouldn’t.”

Syria is not the only dangerous locale still courting tourists. A month ago, Taliban militants in western Afghanistan attacked a convoy carrying foreign tourists, leaving at least six people injured.